From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Ruth Cardello comes the steamy new release to the Lone Star Burn series.
Lucy Albright never wanted her family’s Texas ranch, but now it’s in foreclosure. She’s already lost so much she can’t bear the thought of losing one more thing. Lucy learned the hard way not to accept help from a man when there are strings attached, so she’ll do whatever it takes to save the ranch on her own terms—even if that means launching an online business marketing high-tech sex toys.
Ranch manager David Harmon has a reputation for being a cowboy with a heart of gold. Even if she refuses his help, down-and-out Lucy is the kind of woman he’ll do anything to protect. And while David may not know much about Lucy’s naughty side business, that won’t stop a cowboy from doing something he’s set his mind to.
With the ranch threatened by a scheming neighbor, Lucy can’t help but keep David around. Their attraction may be undeniable, but will the spark between them burn her entire future to the ground?
She met his eyes, and for a moment her resolve wavered. He had the kindest eyes she’d ever looked into. What would we be to each other if we’d known each other before all this? If I wasn’t already a tangled mess on the inside?
Why ask myself what might have been, when all I have is here and now?
“Keeping this ranch is my priority now. My only priority. I know how ungrateful that sounds, but I asked you not to come. I warned you. Good-bye, David.”
He bent closer again, so close Lucy’s resolve began to dissolve. “I’m not leaving until I’m sure you’re safe, Lucy. Wyatt hired me to help look after the outbuildings, and I agreed to bring some of my horses over to give work to some of the men who were here today. Wyatt seems to think they’ll need it.”
The room spun. “Wyatt can’t hire you. This is my ranch.”
David caressed the side of Lucy’s face, running the back of his fingers down one side of her neck. “Wyatt’s worried about you. He thinks you need someone to watch over you. I agree.”
The pleasure of his touch confused Lucy. She felt vibrantly alive, and her miserable morning was too easy to forget. No. No. No. She pushed his hand away. “I don’t care what Wyatt thinks, and I don’t care what you do, either. I’m telling you to leave. I don’t want you here.”
“Then why do you look like you want to kiss me so damn much?” he asked.
Lucy turned away from him. She wrapped her arms around herself. She could lie to him and say he was wrong, but they’d both know it wasn’t true. “You say you want to help me, David, but you don’t listen to me. I will save this ranch, and I will do it myself.” She turned back to face him. “Haven’t you ever needed to prove something to yourself so badly that an easier way of doing something was impossible to consider?”
David nodded. “And that was usually right before I fell on my face.”
She sputtered angrily and was about to tell him off when he raised his hand to caress her cheek again. “We’re at a standoff, you and I. My daddy always said the secret to solving a disagreement was finding a compromise both could live with. Wyatt needs help outside, the men who were here today need jobs, and I need to know you’re okay.”
He ran a mesmerizing thumb across her parted lips. “You need to save the ranch on your own. What if I promise I won’t step in to help again unless you ask me to, and in return you let me pay for the use of your barns and fields to train my horses.”
“You can’t pay me. I owe you money.” “Then charge me and deduct as we go. I’ll pay you a fair rate for the lease of your facility.”
“Why would you do that?” Besides to sleep with me, because that can’t happen.
As if he heard her, he dropped his hand and stepped back. The sadness she felt at the absence of his touch was as confusing as fighting the pleasure from it had been. “I’ve been thinking about getting my own place for a while. This would be a way to test how I like it. Working with Tony has been good for me, but like you, it’s time for me to see what I can do on my own.”
“You can’t stay in the main house.” Lucy blushed right after she blurted her thought out.
A slow smile spread across his face. “Wyatt suggested I stay in the old workers’ quarters. None of the men who were here today will be looking to stay there. It’ll be perfect.”
Am I honestly considering this? “If I say yes, it doesn’t mean I’m agreeing to anything else. I want to be clear about that.”
A twinkle lit his eyes. “Why, Miss Lucy, what else might I think you were agreeing to?”
Lucy walked back to the box and picked up the largest toy inside. It was the velvet base with the exchangeable mechanical dildo on top. She placed it on her desk, laid out the variety of attachable pieces in front of it, and sat down. She rested her chin on one hand and looked at it sternly.
You don’t scare me, you know.
You’re just a bunch of wires and silicone molds.
She glanced at the directions, then attached one of the dildos to the top. It had a tickler on its end that reminded Lucy of a mop of hair.
Not even sexy. More like something from outer space. She absently ran her finger over the complicated arrangements of buttons on the front. And seriously, how much does something like you need to do?
As she brushed too hard against one of the buttons, the dildo started to spin. “Shit.” She tried to turn it off, but the button she’d pressed had sent the base into a vibration mode so powerful, the thing was hopping on her desk. She made a grab for it, pressed another button, and the dildo flew forward, slapping her across the face. She swore and lost her grip, and it hopped itself off her desk and crashed to the floor.
She scrambled onto her knees, trying to grab the damn thing. It eluded her first attempt, but she finally caught it. Despite how it wiggled for its freedom, she righted it and located the “Off” button. Swearing, she sat back on her heels and wiped a hand across her now sweaty brow. It was only then that she noticed David standing at the door.
There are moments in life that test a man. The sight of Lucy chasing a hopping machine with a dick waving from the top of it like a flag was probably the funniest thing David had ever seen. The expression on her face warned him not to laugh. He told himself she was probably embarrassed, and he shouldn’t have opened the door without knocking.
Then, because he was only human, he grinned and asked, “Tough day at work?”
Ruth Cardello was born the youngest of 11 children in a small city in northern Rhode Island. She spent her young adult years moving as far away as she could from her large extended family. She lived in Boston, Paris, Orlando, New York--then came full circle and moved back to Rhode Island. She now happily lives one town over from the one she was born in. For her, family trumped the warmer weather and international scene.
She was an educator for 20 years, the last 11 as a kindergarten teacher. When her school district began cutting jobs, Ruth turned a serious eye toward her second love- writing and has never been happier. When she's not writing, you can find her chasing her children around her small farm, riding her horses, or connecting with her readers online.
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