Maria Hoagland’s Essence of Gravity made it in Urban Fantasy too. I also saw Ellie Thornton, MK Dymock, Cami Checketts, Elana Johnson, Rebecca Talley, Nichole Van, Jennifer Peel, AL Sowards, Taylor Hart, Carolyn Tweed Frank and MANY more amazing authors in there! Congrats!!!
This was blackmail. “Return my jeans and all the rest of the laundry you stole,” he said, “and I’ll think about it.” “Wear what came in today, and I’ll think about it.” He flopped down on the chair, having no intention of doing that. “You know what happens to thieves, right?” “Nothing good,” she replied, pouring water into her cup. “I’m willing to sacrifice for fashion.” Cole was kind of at a loss at what to do, since he didn’t have sisters. Normally, he’d wrestle his brothers down by now and force them to do the right thing. He tried to buy time. “What’s in this magical shipment that you’ve got?” “Oooh, well, Henley tops, shawl neck sweaters, cuffed jeans, rolled up slacks—in charcoal, indigo, chocolate. I even tried mustard.” Was anything a real color? He was starting to squirm and sweat all at once. “You can’t buy things for your future brother-in-law. It’s just not done.” “West approves.” Right! Because they had their weird little “understanding.” The traitor. “Ah, and I got you a puffy coat with sweater sleeves,” she said. His whole stomach dropped. “You know, I can buy some new jeans at Harold’s to replace the ones you stole,” he said. “C’mon!” She poked his forearm with her pinky. “You can wear it to the Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice Festival.” “The last thing I’m thinking about is what I’m wearing to the festival.” “I know, right? That’s why I am.” He rubbed at his eyes, feeling the fight drain from him. “If I agree to your terms, then you’ll give me my jeans… now?” “Yes. Well, after dinner.” He took a steadying breath. His gaze was caught by her laughing eyes. Her blonde hair fell over her face while she dished up her plate. “I have a different idea,” he said. “And that is?” “We’ll wrestle for it.” “What?” He picked her up over his shoulder and took her to where the Slade brothers always had it out in the living room, despite their momma’s screams to the contrary. “Cole!” she cried out. Eva was a lot lighter than his brothers, and she kicked her bare feet against his side. “You can’t just wrestle your sister-in-law.” She wasn’t yet. And two could play at this game. “You can always call it quits then, and concede that I’m the victor.” “Never!” Not quite what he expected. The puppy barked joyfully around them, wanting to join in the fun. “I can put you in a pretzel,” he teased her. “I’d like to see you try it.” Really? He set her on the couch, not quite sure what to do with her now that he’d started, but she lunged at him instead and caught him so unaware, that she managed to pin him down against the cushion. “I might not have brothers,” she huffed out, “but I’ve wrestled a few greased pigs at the fair.” Great! Trust her to take this to another level. She was clearly enjoying herself. He threw his arms around her, actually not sure how to make this fair when he saw she completely disappeared under him. He rolled her around, careful not to hurt her. “You give?” he asked her. “Not a chance!” She squirmed out of his grip and fell against the carpet, knocking him back with her shoulder as she wriggled away. “Not until I see you in a turtleneck sweater.” “You can forget that!” He grabbed her knee and tugged her to him. “I pin you for three seconds and then you have to give.” “Who says?” she called out. “I didn’t agree to that.” “Six?” She laughed up in his face and poked her finger into his stomach, and then followed that with lots of fingers digging into the softest parts of him while she tickled him all over. He crumpled, feeling himself go weak like he always did in a tickle war. He tried to catch her hands, all while howling out uncontrollably in laughter. “You can’t…” he said, “… little cheat.” “Someone’s got to even the playing field,” she hollered out. “You big–big lumberjack!” Lumberjack? Ouch! “Ouch!” he said aloud when she caught him under his armpit. He took her by the wrists, realizing that he had no idea how to end this fight and still come out the victor because the little thief was stealing more than his laundry with her every dimple. He tried to hold her still, and quite suddenly, she stopped struggling, her eyes going to his. Her breathing came out heavily. His hands tightened over her. The phone rang, and he turned towards it, a part of him realizing that he needed to stop that sound somehow. “You going to get that?” Eva asked him. Yes, yes, of course. Her hair was everywhere. He tried to push those glorious strands from her eyes. The phone’s ringing screeched persistently over them. Her lashes fluttered in confusion. Wait, what was he doing? He straightened and released her. “Your lucky day,” he told her. That was more for bravado than anything. He abandoned her and headed for the phone, every part of him shaking, partly from pushing it too far with Eva and partly because he knew what this phone call could be about. He answered it.
But first I want to share another review that had me smiling: “I just finished Cole’s Dilemma and absolutely loved it! I’ve been waiting a few books to read Cole’s story, and when I found out his other half was none other than Eva Trout? Cue huge grin. I loved watching them fall in love, and while I shed more than a few tears throughout the book, I wouldn’t change a thing. Another one knocked out of the park for Stephanie Fowers!”
They worked on the rest of the broken fencing. This time, they kept their conversation light, though Cole still couldn’t help teasing Eva again about pretending to be a bad shot. “I don’t believe you’re that awful for a second,” he said. “Oh yeah? What gave it away? Not that I’m saying you’re right.” A panicked cry cut through the peace of the morning. Cole’s stomach dropped. He knew that sound anywhere. It was a lone calf. The young animal let out another squeal. It was definitely in danger. Lizardman pulled upright, growling as he shivered with rapt attention. Cole’s gaze was drawn to the reeds blocking their view from the swamp. That’s where the bawling came from. The calf wouldn’t last long out there in the mud. The scrappy little puppy let out a bark and dashed into the reeds to follow the anguished mewling. Cole stepped towards the sound too, hearing Eva follow closely behind. He turned to study her fashionable boots. They wouldn’t hold up in this kind of terrain. The swamp would swallow her like it had the calf. “Stay here,” he said. “I’m going in.”
Did Cole really just say that? Just like a fireman. He was going in. Eva smiled. Cole disappeared through the reeds. The muscles rippled through his arms as he made his way through the mud. He looked like a knight wearing a tunic with those sleeves ripped off his shirt. It gave her a good view of his strong back and shoulders. Now this was the kind of man who rescued the weak and saved the hurting. A hero. She couldn’t be prouder of her future family. The poor calf let out another cry at seeing Cole push through the reeds. She heard some shouting, then splashing, a bit of coaxing before a large head crashed through the reeds. The rest of its reddish-brown body came charging over the same pathway that Cole had made. Mud ran down the calf’s shoulders and legs as it whipped its head around in an agitated way. The poor thing bawled and cried out like a baby. The lumbering thing was a baby! It came straight for the fencing that they’d fixed. Eva grabbed the side of the barrier that acted like a gate and opened it to let the crying calf barrel its way through. The calf paced back and forth on the other side until it eventually wandered back to where Eva stood. Its big eyes stared up at her like it wanted something. “Hey there, little one.” She had no idea if this was a boy or a girl. Its mouth smacked together like a baby asking for milk, and then the clumsy sweetheart caught a hold of her sleeve and started to chomp at it. She laughed and screamed and then scrambled away. “Oh no, you poor thing! Are you hungry? We don’t eat clothes.” She peered over the fencing at the reeds. “Cole,” she called out. “You coming out or what?” “Um… about that…” “What’s the problem?” “I lost my overalls somewhere.” She covered her face, feeling her body ache with the effort of trying to keep her howls of laughter from reaching him. She was doing a poor job of it. Reaching over to pat the squirmy calf on the top of its soft head, she puckered her lips. “Is that your fault… Dopey?” she quickly named the cute thing. He sure liked to eat clothes. Though she knew who the true culprit was. After all, Cole never would’ve grabbed the overalls if she hadn’t started this little war of fashion with him. She’d make this right. “I’m coming.” “No!” he tried to shout her back. “Don’t be a baby.” She wriggled through the fence, making sure that Dopey stayed on the other side of it. “I can help.” “How?” he asked incredulously. “You’ll make me a pair of pants out of mud?” She giggled again, searching around for something, anything. She remembered that there was a dirty blanket that they’d wrapped around the bottles. She ran to fetch it, dragging it away from the rest of the target practice equipment. She tried to air it out by whipping it around. It was a little dusty, but it would do the trick. “I think I have something you could use!” “You really shouldn’t come in here,” he said. “Now, now, you’re a big strong cowboy.” She followed the trail that Dopey had flattened in his escape from the swamp. “You shouldn’t be afraid of a little missy like me.” She dissolved into giggles again. Their roles were reversed from yesterday. “No, I mean…” She cleared her way through the reeds and took one step and dropped through the ground. She shrieked out as she sank up to her thighs in the mud. Oh! Eva finally figured out what Cole meant. She tried to wriggle out and felt her boots wrenched from her feet in one sucking motion. “My boots!” she moaned. “Don’t move! Don’t move.” Looking to the side, she saw Cole almost chest deep in the water ahead of her. Lizardman dashed around the edge of the pond, whimpering pathetically. “Lizardman!” she cried. “Keep away!” “Don’t worry! Don’t worry,” Cole said. “He’s light. He won’t sink.” “What is this, quicksand or something?” “No, no, just mud. Stay where you are. I’m coming.” “What are you going to do?” He was already missing his pants. She snickered again at the thought. This was both hilarious and super scary. Clutching the blanket close to her, she threw the end of it at him. He grabbed it and wrapped the heavy wool around his legs before he started to climb his way out. Water drained from his chest and arms as he struggled to get to her side. Once he reached her, he took her hand. It practically swallowed hers in its immensity, and then taking a deep breath, he made sure that the blanket was tucked in place before he turned to her. She let out a hysterical giggle. The man looked like a mud-caked Pict warrior in a kilt. This was going to get interesting. His beautiful eyes ran over her to figure out her predicament. The next instant, Cole’s hands went under her arms and he tugged her up. She gasped at his strength, throwing her flailing arms around his neck. The mud surrendered her leg with a pop. She was completely barefoot. “My boots! My boots.” She tried to reach them. “I’ve got it.” He set her near the reeds where the plants gave her firm ground. He clawed around the mud, prying out one boot. A loud sucking noise followed his movements. Where was the other one? She inched closer and the slippery mud did the rest. It carried her down the small incline. She careened forward, falling face first into the cold mud. She lifted her head from the watery sludge. Her hair dripped with it. By now, Cole was laughing so hard that he was having trouble keeping his own balance. He landed on one knee and lent her his hand. “Let’s try to get out of this together. You ready?” She nodded, concentrating with all her might to find some footing that wouldn’t suck her under or make her slip. “Walk on your tiptoes,” he said. “Don’t plant your feet on the ground. That way you won’t get stuck.” Eva tried to do it like he said. She reached for her final boot, but she lost her balance again and fell back into the mud. “Okay… you’re okay.” Cole’s reassurances were lost in more of his amusement. “I’ve got you.” His hands found her and she let out a surprised breath when he scooped her easily up into his arms. She was pretty positive that they both resembled mud wrestlers at this point. Eva searched for her boots again, this time catching sight of those overalls. “There!” She pointed. They’d drifted up at the edge of the reeds. “You’re in luck! You don’t have to wear a kilt.” He hadn’t stopped snickering since she’d done a face plant in the mud, and he didn’t quit now. Setting her back in the reeds, he snatched at the overalls. “Turn around,” he said. Eva covered her face. The blanket landed against her, and she caught it. When he finally gave her permission to use her eyes again, she burst out into laughter. If she ever did behold a redneck from the deepest parts of the Ozarks, there he was with one strap of his bib overalls stretched over those filthy muscular shoulders. The rough beginnings of a beard shadowed his strong jaw. The only thing missing was a piece of straw sticking from his mouth. Also strangely attractive. Not a surprise, since he was a Slade.
Eva wrote West again, her eagerness making her reckless with the speed of her texts: “You coming?”
He finally replied: “Yes.”
“How far are you?” she asked.
“Give me about three minutes.”
“Perfect,” she wrote back. “Take the ladder up to the hayloft. You won’t believe what you’ll find there.”
Eva giggled into her hand. He was going to get a surprise that he wouldn’t soon forget. She’d heard more than enough country songs to know that hay was pretty much the most romantic spot to find a cowboy.
She picked up her phone. Running her fingers through her apps, she found TalkieTalk and set it on a live feed. She wasn’t a notorious influencer for nothing! Eva had every intention of declaring her love to the world.
West would never doubt her feelings again.
“Hey, everybody,” she told the screen when she switched on her live feed. She watched the numbers jump from zero to the hundreds, to the thousands, to the hundred-thousands. It would hit over a million views soon. She smiled.
Just how she liked it. Her sponsors were going to have a heyday with this.
“I’m in an actual hayloft in Harvest Ranch,” she told her fans. “Can you believe it? Kinda screwy for anyone to find me in the country, but that’s what people do when they’re in love.”
Wait, did she want to admit that yet?
But now the cat was scratching its way out of the bag and so, she let it out all the way by admitting everything. “Oh wow, such a funny thing to say. It feels so strange, but so right. Yeah, I’m in love!” She squealed the second the words came out. “Crazy, right? I’m finally saying it out loud. But I-I think he just doesn’t know how I feel because…” She tried to work out exactly why he didn’t know. “I’m too friendly sometimes,” she admitted, “so it’s hard for that special someone to know that they’re special, right? So anyway, I never want this guy that I care about to doubt how I feel about him again.” She lowered her voice, “His name is West Slade. I told him to meet me up here in the hayloft. As soon as he comes up that ladder and comes around that haystack, I’m going to surprise him with a kiss that’ll melt his face off. We’ll just see what he has to say.”
Sure, haters might criticize her for giving away the most important events of her life, but… she was a sharer! Eva just happened to be really open about her feelings. She’d grown a skin tough enough to handle all criticisms, and she did her best not to let the fame get to her head.
After all, why was the tradition of kissing in front of everybody to finish the wedding ceremony at a church any different than what she was doing now?
She gulped, turning back to her fans. “And maybe I’m stupid for making this ‘live’ because I could very possibly get rejected, but what if? What if… he feels the same? I can’t let my fear get in the way anymore. I have to be honest, no matter what happens! I’m ready to put this all out there. You with me on this?”
She needed a good angle for this livestream, definitely not a shot from below. Looking around the cozy little nook, she noticed bales of hay piled up on every side of her. One stack was tiered like stairs. She could put the camera up there.
Stepping up on the first bale of hay, she made her way up, so that she could reach the highest point to set up her camera. She adjusted her phone so that the screen would catch West when he came around that first bale of hay across from her. This angle also caught her best side.
This was going to be awesome. She put her thumb up to the screen, then noticed how dark it was in this loft. She squinted at the screen, seeing that she was entirely in the shadows. Ah great! The picture was awful. Eva searched for some sort of overhead lighting, just as she heard a sound behind her.
He was coming! She took a deep breath. This lighting would have to do.
She didn’t even have time to get off the bale of hay before she listened to West clear the ladder and walk towards her hideout. Her fingers curled into a tight fist as every part of her tensed with delight. She’d have to pull him to her because she didn’t want to accidentally knock West to the ground below.
Reenacting a Greek tragedy was the complete opposite of what she wanted to do.
She took a deep breath, trying not to laugh, but her happiness was turning her giddy. The silhouette of West rounded the bend of hay bales, and she grasped the ends of his collar and tugged him closer.
A part of her noticed that he’d gotten out of that dress shirt and put on a casual tee shirt more fitting for the country. Standing on the hay bale, she wrapped her arms around him in the darkness. “I want to tell you something.”
He let out a breath, and she planted her lips against his before he could try to talk her out of it. Eva might’ve held back everything that she’d felt for West that first time they’d kissed, but when he’d never come back for more, she’d decided that she needed to show him exactly what he was missing.
She had a wild spirit that matched his!
The lights definitely wouldn’t catch any of this on her live feed. Her TalkieTalk would be an absolute failure! She didn’t care.
West was unresponsive with shock, but slowly, slowly, his hands moved around her. She felt his heart beneath hers. Blessedly racing. It was the most emotion that she’d ever gotten out of him.
Hope beat through her as he surrendered to her kisses by gathering her close, one arm behind her waist, the other supporting her head. His lips turned demanding over hers. Oh wow, he was strong. She felt like she was disappearing in his embrace. She’d never noticed that he was so big, maybe because she’d only seen him around his brothers lately.
His fingers tangled through her hair. She felt herself melting.
Yeehaw and yippee ki-yay! Is that how they say it here? Who cares!
This kiss was something to die for. West had passion, she felt that, but something deeper too—his every move was the mark of a gentleman. His touch was meaningful, expressive, thoughtful, like he held back the strength of a storm with his gentle caresses.
This wasn’t like their kiss before. This was better!
Her knees went weak. Eva stepped back to steady herself. That’s when she felt her horrible sandal slip on the hay again. She stumbled. West tried to catch her, only for the both of them to fall back against the bale of hay together.
What a way to go! She giggled, and he let out a shaky laugh. “Eva,” he said. “I think that means you’re ‘it.’”
She ran her fingers through his hair. “Oh, West…”
“West?” he asked. He wrenched back.
She scrambled off the bale of hay and realized just how tall he was.
This wasn’t West.
She sprang away.
Cole couldn’t catch his breath, even as he made out Eva’s features through the shadows of the loft.
What had just happened?
The memory of her lips still burned against his. He tried to piece everything together that had led up to this. It wasn’t like he’d never kissed a stranger before. The women at Mo’s were always throwing their arms around him and smothering him with their love, especially after a rowdy swing dance, or even to congratulate him after he and his brothers won a round of pool… but for once, he’d actually given in.
He wasn’t sure why, only that tasting the actual sweetness of her lips after seeing that same sweetness with his nephews felt… complete.
Dah! He was an idiot!
She’d told him that she’d teach him a few lessons on love; he’d assumed she meant it in the most platonic, teasing way—until he’d come looking for her in the hayloft.
Even then, he meant to pull back, but then… her hypnotizing scent of gardenias, and the sincerity behind her soft touch was enough to make him certain that there was absolutely nothing going on between her and his brother.
That was until she’d called him West.
“Oh!” She hugged Cole again, jostling him back. He felt like a wooden post through his shock. He felt her intake of breath against his ear. “Sorry!”
Hugging him was supposed to make this all better?
Saying that he was stunned was an understatement. He listened to Charlie’s voice beneath them on the ladder. “Did you find her?”
Yeah, you could say that.
He wasn’t sure whether to be alarmed or angry, but then his heart wrenched with concern when she covered her face and burst into tears.
“Oh, no, are you okay?” Now it was his turn to take her in his arms to make amends. He rubbed her back, trying to get her to stop crying. Wait. What was he doing? He released her. “I’m so sorry.”
What was he apologizing for? She’d been the one who grabbed him first, but still he felt terrible. She didn’t know who she had, but he did. He’d kissed her back, stupidly! He was such a jerk.
Then he noticed that she wasn’t crying. She was laughing.
“I’m so, so sorry!” she said. “I… oh no!” She grabbed at her phone. He saw that she’d set it on the hay behind them.
She quickly messed with it, turning the screen black as she slipped it into the pocket of her jean shorts. “I really thought you were West,” she said. “And we kind of have this little thing that we do.”
Oh, Cole definitely didn’t want to hear this.
He held his hands up. “It didn’t happen,” he heard himself saying. “Just like I didn’t fall on you on the stairs, this especially did nothappen.”
She licked her lips. His eyes drew to that silky softness. Just seconds ago, they were… no, no, it didn’t happen! Another horrified thought hit him. What if they actually became related after this? He’d have to take this to the grave that he’d kissed his sister-in-law… and worse? That he’d liked it.
He ran his palms down his face. Not even torturers would get that admission out of him. West had already accused Hudson of going after Liv back in the day. Of course, it wasn’t true, but it was the one thing that made West feel justified about breaking up his little family.
Get ready for a good old fashioned Twin Switch at Harvest Ranch!
Cadence ran away to Harvest Ranch to escape her troubles in Nashville. She’ll do anything to save her unborn baby from his influential father–a rich and powerful womanizer who ruthlessly tries to hunt her down. How did she ever believe that he once loved her? Cadence thought she’d be safe at her friend’s home in the middle of nowhere, except that the only other man who knows her secret somehow followed her here, and he’s a no-good playboy!
How did he find her?
Porter promised to keep his friend’s plants alive as a favor while she’s away, but instead he’s stunned when a breathtakingly beautiful woman is staying at the apartment and tries to clock him in the head with a lamp for trespassing. When Porter realizes that she’s mistaken him for his twin brother living in Nashville, he decides to have some fun. After all, what better way to get to know this mysterious house guest than with a good prank?
But who is this gorgeous stranger?
As Cadence falls in love with the friendly inhabitants of Harvest Ranch, she begins to understand how precious a gift this sweet little life inside of her has become. At the same time, she makes a wreck of Porter’s normally fearless and undisciplined heart. The anguish in her deep brown eyes haunts him. She’s hiding secrets, but he can’t get through her defenses. Porter needs to tame his wild ways and show her that he’s the kind of man that she can trust before it’s too late.
When trouble follows Cadence to Harvest Ranch, will she turn to the strength of Porter’s waiting arms or will she run again?
*In this Harvest Ranch novel, celebrate the joy of life, the worth of a soul, and a love worth saving.
A loud crack sounded behind her as the rodeo gates flew open. She turned, wondering if she looked like a mouse waiting for a lion in a gladiator fight… or was this a bull? Would Nash really send a bull out to save her from singing “The Star Spangled Banner” by crushing her to death?
She stepped back.
A horse charged from the gates, a wild one by the looks of things. Nash whipped the reins from side to side, galloping straight for her.
Her breath came back to her in a deep whoosh, filling her lungs as effectively as if he’d done CPR on her. Once again, he sure had succeeded at distracting her. Everyone else, too! The crowd cheered in expectation of what was going to happen to Little Miss Emily Mackenzie.
Nash rode for her with the fury of a thousand suns. Once he reached her, he pulled back on the reins. The horse reared up. This was either a show horse or one used for saddle bronc, but Nash was a cowboy through and through. He knew what he was doing. He held out his hand to her. “Get on.”
She couldn’t just ride away from here, could she?
He beckoned her toward him again. His smile broadened, showing the full devilish mischief that she’d seen on Nash’s face plenty of times before, like he didn’t care what any one of these people thought of this strange spectacle. “Trust me. Get on.”
She reached for him. His larger hand closed over hers, and he dragged her up onto the saddle in front of him, just as easily as he’d done to her with his motorcycle. The cheers were earsplitting now. He pressed his lips against her hair to find her ear. “You ready for me to destroy that prissy reputation?”
Before she could argue, he plunged his heels into the horse’s flanks and headed straight for her banner to the sound of raucous cheers. These people wanted a show, and he gave them that and more. He burst through the banner and snatched at the ends, carrying it sailing through the air behind them as he took her to the middle of the arena.
That’s when the fireworks exploded over them.
Pulling back on the reins, he leaned into her. She twisted to meet his eyes. They glittered under the flashing fireworks above them. Something in his expression mesmerized her. She felt his hands in her hair next, though this time, he stole her hat. He used the large brim to shield their faces from the spectators. His heavy breath crashed with hers. “Kiss me,” he said.
Her heart shot to her throat. Her gaze slid to his lips and the familiarity of that cocky lift at the edges with a part smile, part expectation. His other hand found her waist. Oh! She wanted to kiss him so bad.
“Kiss me,” he repeated, softer this time, more urgently.
Her lips needed to only travel a breath before they met his. Throwing out her reservations, she closed her eyes, surrendering to the pull between them. She felt his soft mouth over hers. Sparks shot through her at his touch.
She was in deep trouble.
Did he feel that current of attraction running through them, too? Her hand somehow found his widow’s peak before her fingers slid into his thick hair. It was cut shorter than his twin’s, but there was still enough to hold on to as he gave her the kiss of a lifetime. She would’ve fallen through the floor had she been standing.
She knew the moment that he’d taken away the cowboy hat from their faces because the crowd gasped, then cheered. She recognized the sound of cameras going off.
Her face felt flushed, not to mention her raw cheek felt the brunt of his facial hair. She grinned. And yeah, this might be a fake exhibition for the naysayers out there to see, but wow! That moment sure felt real to her. She liked every second of kissing Nash. He knew what he was doing. Too much.
“You’re making rescuing me into a habit,” she whispered to him.
“You call this rescuing you?” he asked. “If that’s the case, Emily, I’m here for you whenever you need me.”
A microphone was pushed up at them. An older cowboy had made his way over with a cordless mic and now he held it out to her, like it was all part of the plan. Her heart didn’t seem to crawl inside itself like it had the first time. It was too wrapped up in Nash.
She took the microphone.
Nash surprised her by kissing her again. She responded to his demanding lips with a building fire that ran through her, almost as powerful as the adrenaline pouring through her at the upcoming performance.
He pulled back, his chest heaving with his breaths. “Girl, save that for the Fourth of July!”
Did he mean that he meant to kiss her then, too?
The crowd sure seemed to think so! She couldn’t really see them, but what she could hear was supportive. Nash ran his fingers down her back and nodded encouragingly to her.
Taking a deep breath, she brought the mic to her mouth and just went for it. She belted out the notes to “The Star Spangled Banner.” Her fingers clutched tightly to his. Her back rested securely against his chest in a protective cocoon of him. She wouldn’t mind performing this way every time.
Anyone would excuse her breathlessness as coming from his kisses, and in all honesty, that might be why she was sounding a little husky.
She realized as she finished that she’d felt a lot of excitement, but hardly any fear. How could she? This just felt like a dream. She whipped around to study Nash, to really see him. He grinned.
“You did great, songbird!”
Nash was very proud of himself. He was the reason she’d been able to let go. A rush of affection overcame her, and she squeezed his fingers entwined with hers. And before she could take it back, she agreed to their reckless plan. “Yes,” she breathed out.
“Yes what?” He turned the horse around to take them back to Mia waiting in the sidelines. She noticed that he was smirking.
She laughed in return. “You know what I’m talking about!”
“I just want to hear it from you.”
She bit down her smile as the older cowboy ran after them to take the microphone. As soon as he did, she nudged Nash. “I want to um… be with you more.” He was right. Mia was, too. Faking a relationship would help her gain some footing with her audience, and maybe that might help her find her confidence, just like she had tonight.
“I thought you’d never ask.” She heard the laughter behind his voice.
All pretend… never mind that she’d never felt anything more real in her life. But she could enjoy what they had. This was Nash—he’d make sure that she did.
I’m so excited to bring you Nash’s book! I had a TON of fun writing about Harvest Ranch’s most mischievous twin! Check it out HERE.
Harvest Ranch is alive and well in Nashville!
Emily Mackenzie can’t live up to her brother’s superstar status. She lives and breathes her country music, but performing? Not so much. It terrifies her, especially when she heads to Nashville to pursue her own dreams and meets with a storm of criticism. How can “Little Miss Harvest Ranch” sing about love when she guards her elusive heart so jealously?
But guess who isn’t terrified of anything?
Nash Slade. The city he’s named after is getting on his nerves. After seeing the shady side of his business, he’s ready to call it quits and return to Harvest Ranch… until he meets up with Emily at her performance turned disaster. He always had a thing for Emily, so when her manager explains that the uptight beauty needs some help tarnishing her spotless image, he’s more than happy to offer his services.
This reckless cowboy wouldn’t mind a kiss or two from those normally disapproving lips.
As for Emily, pretending to date a bad boy is the easy part. Keeping her fragile heart out of his reach is something else altogether! He’s way too good at playing the perfect boyfriend. And Nash might have a thing or two to teach “Little Miss Harvest Ranch” about facing her fears, but why is this country innocent the one who has him stumbling over his words and checking his wild pulse at every turn?
As Emily gets ready to hit the stage at Harvest Ranch, they’re both about to face the performance of their lives… especially if they think that they can fool anyone into believing that what they have isn’t real.
Sky swore that she’d never set eyes on that stormy Grey Bridges again!Imagine her surprise when she runs into that double-crossing, adrenaline junky at Harvest Ranch. His smoldering gaze sparks in her the same tumultuous feelings that doomed their last fiery relationship.
The only reason that Sky had agreed to work as the talent manager for the famous country singer, River MacKenzie, was knowing that Grey was sequestered away in the wilds of Brazil… far from her.
And now he’s back! How much can her heart take? This former Navy Seal has brought with him mysteries and danger that embroil the two in a strange adventure that strands them together in a fight for survival. The last place Sky should be is alone with him and her traitorous feelings, but she has no choice, but to seek shelter with him.
No worries. She’ll stay strong against Grey’s accidental charm. And if he wants to rekindle the embers of their past? Sure… as long as she makes him pay for breaking her heart.
Pax Fisher rummaged through his bag for his cell phone, carefully reaching around his gun all while Faith smiled sweetly at him. Her full red lips were distracting. Who was he kidding? Everything about her was distracting.
Flakes of snow glittered in her blonde hair under the florescent lights. If the place hadn’t borrowed so heavily from her cheery disposition, the cabin would remind him of one of those foul destinations he’d find in all those campy ’70s horrors. Her coat swished as she rummaged through the closet and pulled out bedding. “There are coats in here that might fit you too,” she said. “Some of the other rangers left their old ones behind.”
He nodded. Faith was quite the accommodating hostess. She kept a running dialogue on helpful tips and how things would be for him up here. His eyes kept sliding to her Bible.
What would he have done if Faith hadn’t followed him back into the cabin? He wasn’t sure how he would’ve convinced her to come with him without a fight, short of throwing her over his shoulder. Fortunately, she’d made things very easy when she mistook him for the Search and Rescue ranger who had come to replace her. He’d been lucky. For now. The real ranger would come eventually. Pax would have to work fast. He dug out his phone.
“No cell phone service,” she warned with a laugh.
“What?” he muttered. “There was in town.”
“It’s amazing what a twenty minute drive will do.” She shrugged and began to peel off her coat. She was dressed in the usual ranger nondescript colors, but nothing could hide her feminine curves.
“You’ll get used to the peace and quiet after a while… either that or go crazy.” To demonstrate her point, she crossed her eyes. They were enormous, and strangely adorable in her playfulness. She smiled again and watched him with no suspicion, like she kept all her naivety packed in those swirling blue depths. She put away her coat in the closet and heaved up the heavy blankets to throw beside him. The pillows came next. “I’m sure you’re used to the quiet life by now.”
If she only knew. “Yeah, you get used to staring at the same four walls,” he said.
“Probably a lot like prison, so I’ve heard.” She cleared her throat uncomfortably.
Of course, she was thinking of her brother, not him. He studied her, not seeing many resemblances to Jody. The guy had nondescript brown hair, but Faith’s long hair was so blonde, it was almost white and she wore most of it in a messy ponytail. She was beautiful, but then again, Pax always knew that. But seeing her in real life? It was… surreal. She bit down on those impossibly lush lips, watching him with an interested, curious expression. He was glad that he didn’t have to tell her that he’d come for her necklace yet.
“You from Texas?” she asked.
He tried to focus enough to answer. “Dallas.”
“That would explain the accent. My bro—” she trailed off.
“What?” Though he knew exactly what she was hiding.
“My brother lives in Dallas,” she admitted.
Yeah, they’d been cellmates at the federal prison where they’d both been sent. Jody had told Pax all about the “family heirlooms.” His cellmate had stolen the jewels before he killed that guy. In fact, the creep who’d tried to mess up Jody’s sister wasn’t after drugs. He was going for the jewels. And this girl had no idea. Faith played with the chain of her necklace, not knowing she wore millions of dollars around her neck.
“Where are you heading after this?” Pax asked her.
“Well… I’m taking a research job for the winter. I might be there longer than I like though because”—she sat against the arm of the couch, looking suddenly despondent—“I’ve been searching for rare animals to prove that the rangers are making a difference at the park, but… I wasn’t successful, so I might not get my contract renewed, which is really depressing.” Her eyes dropped to the floor.
He was intrigued by the passion that she always seemed to have. She was fairly dripping in it. Seeing her in person was no different. He couldn’t help prying. “You really like it here?”
She nodded vigorously. “I love it.” He didn’t doubt it—the natural beauty of this place was where she belonged—he might not fit here, but she did. He couldn’t tell her that. “Other jobs might pay better, but I feel like this place is a part of me,” she said. “It’s hard to explain, but it’s so different from where I grew up, and I can barely bring myself to leave.” She shrugged off her gloominess. “If you see a white bird with a scarlet stripe across its head while you’re up here, take a picture of it. You’ll save a lot of our jobs, including mine.”
“I’ll do what I can.” Silence stretched between them.