[BookStrand Cowboy Romantic Suspense, HEA]
Race D'Onofrio had long ago left ranching—an existence of all work and no play. When he must travel to Wyoming to settle his deceased father's affairs, he expects a quick trip with little or no disruption to his exciting Vegas life.
He does not expect to learn his father was murdered. He does not expect the legacy of a ranch and lucrative leases to minerals under the land of his neighbors—leases that, if sold, will make him wealthy.
He does not expect to be beset by disgruntled ranchers or targeted by the mob.
He especially does not expect to fall in love with a debutant, the polar opposite of his ideal woman, or to discover she is spying on him and he has placed her in danger.
How much will he give up? How much can he forgive to have the woman he loves?
A BookStrand Mainstream Romance
A bell rang as he opened the jewelry-shop door. A startled gasp from a slender redhead teetering on top of a ladder spurred him into action. Football training had stayed with him. He caught the woman and whatever it was she held before they hit the ground.
Eyes wide, she wrinkled a freckled nose and formed an O with lush, glossy lips, too plump and appealing to resist. So, he decided not to resist. He kissed her. The taste of mint spurred him on to settle in for more.
The jolt of her slap brought him back to reality, and he quickly placed her on terra firma.
“What the—what did you think you were doing?”
“I didn’t want to see that gorgeous glass horse you’re holding break into smithereens. Blown in Murano, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, how did you know?” She shook her head vigorously. “Don’t change the subject. I meant, why did you kiss—oh, never mind. Thank you for catching me. Can I help you?”
Race grinned at her attempt to control her anger in the face of a possible customer. She plunked the horse on the counter, still bristling.
He picked it up and placed it on one end of the high ledge, then snatched a chunk of unpolished amethyst from the countertop and placed it at the other end of the shelf. He stood back to eye it, angled the horse a bit, and said, “That looks about right. Anything else you want up there?”
“No, and thanks again.” Her voice hadn’t lost its annoyance.
“Race D’Onofrio.” He offered his hand, something his mother told him he should not do until a lady offered first. He simply wanted to see if she would take it. Vegas women only slapped for fun, not anger. If he tweaked a nipple, they’d turn the other breast.
She shook his hand with a sturdy grasp, anger brewing beneath the smooth, touchable skin.
She sucked in a breath and quickly drew her hand from his. Her face and body released a bit of their tension, and she appeared calmer and more at ease as she kept her gaze locked on his.
Her eyes may have been the inspiration for the blue diamonds in her shop’s name. Damn if she wasn’t staring him down and challenging him. Uh-uh, no involvements, please. He wanted to get done here and back home. He broke eye contact first and took a step back. “You have a nice place here.” Ugh. Could he have sounded any more lame?
“I’m Piper Mallory, the proprietor of this store. Were you looking for an item of jewelry or a gift?”
“I was looking for you.”
“Me? I don’t know you, do I?”
“No, but Zack across the street told me you might help me with something.” He flashed his most sincere smile of woe. “You see, my father died two days ago, and I have to settle his debts and do whatever needs to be done here in town before I fly home to Vegas.”
Her clenched jaw visibly relaxed, and her expression softened. “I was so sorry to hear about your dad. Sal was a great guy and a good customer. I’ll be glad to help anyway I can.”
“I need a place to stay so I don’t have to drive to Casper every day.” Dad bought jewelry? For whom? This was strange. This whole day was strange.
“I don’t know of any place unless the doc has an empty room. His house serves as an office and overnight hospital. Ranch hands often need urgent care, and he’ll sometimes keep them for a few days to recoup or for observation.”
He didn’t relish staying in a makeshift hospital. He already imagined the smell of antiseptic and the sounds of sick people moaning in pain. “I understand you have an apartment over your garage and hoped you would rent it to me. I only need it for a few days, a week at most.”
“Oh, I don’t know. I’m fixing it up for when my family comes to visit. My sister is newly married—actually more than a year now—but I guess that’s still new and I want them, she and her husband, to have a sort of private place.” She took a breath.
Race was fascinated by this creature.