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by Donna Marie Rogers
Genre: Contemporary Western
Heat level: Hot
James McMillan is a third generation owner of the most prosperous horse ranch in Golden,
Angela Roberts, having been on her own since she was a teenager, has never wanted anything more than the security of a real home. Her dreams come true when the chance to own half of a
“I’m telling you I bought it fair and square. This deed proves it.”
James McMillan glared down at the crazy woman waving a document under his nose. So his fool baby brother had finally done it—he’d gambled away his half of the ranch. James’ biggest fear had come true, and she barely reached his shoulder.
He blew out a silent breath and thumbed his Stetson back. “Look, Miss...?”
“Roberts. Angela Roberts.”
“It’ll take me a few days to raise the funds to buy it back. In the meantime, there are several hotels in downtown Golden—”
“Sorry, Cowboy, but you’re not getting rid of me that easily. I’m staying right here at the Double M. Reese said—”
“Reese is an idiot, and I don’t give a damn what he said. I’ll be dipped if some gold-digging opportunist is gonna set one foot inside the home my great-grandparents built with their own hands. Now, I’ll pay for your hotel room if you can’t afford one, but either way, you’re leaving.”
She huffed out a sigh of frustration and crossed her arms over her ample chest. Big blue eyes clear as the
sky gazed up at him, and for a brief moment, James became lost in them. He gave himself a mental shake, ignoring her full pouty lips and shiny auburn hair, which hung in loose waves down to her waist. Lord, did he love long hair on a woman. Colorado
Damn you, Reese.
“I told you, I’m not going anywhere. I own half this ranch, whether you like it or not. And if you insist on making me leave, I promise you I’ll be back with the sheriff.”
Great. Just freakin’ great. Sheriff Martin would pounce like a mountain lion on a chance to make James miserable. And if she got that vindictive old cuss involved, the story of Reese’s stupidity would be all over town by nightfall.
His frustration must have shown on his face because a knowing smile curved those luscious lips. James propped his hands on his hips in defeat and took a step back. “Fine. You wanna play house, lady, be my guest. Just don’t get too comfortable.”
With a toss of her head, she picked up her suitcase, her high heels clicking on the tiled floor of the foyer as she strode past him. It took all James’ self-control not to give her denim-clad ass a swat as she passed by.
* * *
“What the hell do you mean it’s legal and binding? It’s written on a hotel letterhead, for chrissakes.”
“I’m sorry, James,” his lawyer said with an audible sigh. “It would be legal if it were written on toilet paper. It’s spelled out to the letter, and both parties signed it, as well as two witnesses and a notary republic. I’m afraid Miss Angela Roberts owns forty-nine percent of the Double M Ranch.”
James blew out a hard breath. “Thanks,
.” He tossed the receiver in its cradle and leaned back in his leather armchair. Bitterness ate at his soul until he thought he might choke on it. Reese’s resentment of James had been going on for so long he could barely remember how the hell it got started. Over something minor, no doubt. And each year the rift between them had grown wider. Cal
Until Reese stepped over the line and lost James’ respect for good.
He shot to his feet and paced the floor for a few seconds, then headed to the sideboard to pour himself a bourbon. The welcoming burn blazed a path straight to his gut. He downed a second and was about to pour a third when someone knocked on the study door. Shit, the last thing he wanted to do was sit through one of Meara’s lectures. He set his glass down with a thunk, then stalked over and yanked open the door.
Only it was Angela standing there in the dim light of the hallway, gazing up at him with those big blue eyes. She wore an oversized New York Giants T-shirt that hung down to just below her knees, and she’d pulled her thick auburn hair up into a ponytail. She looked vulnerable and uncertain and more beautiful than any woman had a right to.
And the bourbon was suddenly warming more than just his stomach.
* * *
James didn’t say one word during breakfast, but wolfed down a mountainous plate of scrambled eggs and toast, and gulped down two cups of black coffee. Not wanting to provoke him since she was pretty sure he had a hangover, Angela kept her mouth shut as he tossed his napkin down and muttered, “Let’s go.”
She followed him out back and into the barn closest to the house, then all the way down to the last stall.
“The first thing you need to learn is how to muck a stall.” He grabbed a pitchfork and handed it to her. “Clean out all the old shavings, and replace ’em with new. There’s a wheelbarrow outside next to the manure pile, which is where you dump the old. The fresh shavings are in there.” He pointed to the stall directly across from the one he wanted her to clean, then turned and strode away.
Angela watched him leave with a sense of panic. She took a couple of deep breaths and forced herself to calm down. Really, it sounded easy enough. And heck, if she could clean bedpans in a nursing home, she could muck out a horse’s stall. The smell was pretty bad, but she supposed she’d better get used to it.
She retrieved the wheelbarrow from behind the barn, grabbed the pitchfork, and got to work. Once she had it as full as she possibly could, she grabbed the handles, lifted it, and started forward, dismayed by how wobbly the stupid thing moved. Maybe ten feet from the pile, she bumped a rock and lost control of the wheelbarrow. The sucker pitched sideways dumping her entire load on the ground.
Cursing a blue streak, she forked everything back into the wheelbarrow, kicked a few more rocks out of her path, and steeled her resolve. She’d get that damn stall cleaned if it killed her—which, she feared, it might. Forty-five minutes later she stood leaning on the pitchfork, a sense of pride swelling her chest. Holy crap, who’d have thought so much work went into cleaning out one freakin’ stall?
“Not bad, although you might want to pick up the pace if you plan to finish in time for lunch.”
Angela spun around at the sound of that familiar deep voice. She hadn’t heard him approach. “Oh, I’m finished. And you might have warned me how hard those things are to steer.” She gestured toward the wheelbarrow.
James grinned and propped his hands on his hips. “Sorry, never thought about it.” He stepped forward and peered inside the stall. “Good job. When you finish with the other five, let me know and we’ll break for lunch.”
* * *James whistled a happy tune as he strode away. No doubt about it, little Miss Gold Digger would be begging him to buy her out by the end of the week. Hell, maybe even by the end of the day. The sooner the better, as far as he was concerned. A man could only take so much temptation. And Miss Angela Roberts was temptation with a capital T. He couldn’t get within five feet of her without wanting to pull her into his arms and kiss her breathless.
Christ, there he went again, letting her monopolize his thoughts.
"Hey, there you are. I was afraid I’d have to search every corner of this place, like last time.”
James turned to see his lawyer, Calvin Henderson heading his way. The older man watched the ground as he walked, bringing a grin to James’ face. “You don’t have to worry about stepping in anything back here,
“Sorry, but last time I had to toss my shoes. And they were Italian loafers.”
The two men shook hands and James gave him a thump on the back. “I told you to bill me for ’em.”
Before James could respond,
’s attention was stolen by something behind him. James turned to see Angela maneuvering the wheelbarrow over to the manure pile. Even handling horse shit the woman was the most beautiful sight he’d ever seen. He swung his gaze back to Cal. Seemed the older man agreed. Cal
“Don’t suppose she’s single?”
James hated the twinge of jealousy that clenched his gut. “Christ, the ink is barely dry on your divorce papers.”
“But it’s dry.”
turned back to James. “Unless, of course, you have dibs?” Cal
James snorted. “What are you, sixteen?”
God, yes. “Hell no. I want her shares of the Double M back, and I want her conniving ass gone.” With that, James spun around and stalked toward the house. Chuckling,
Once they were seated in his study, James slapped the papers into
’s hand. “She’s got two weeks to play rancher, then her ass is gone.” Cal
“And I’m gonna kick yours if you don’t get serious here.” James swiped a hand through his hair, his frustration mounting.
was as perceptive as they came, which was why he ranked as one of the top attorneys in the state. Cal
James had been asking himself that very same question since the moment his head hit the pillow last night. But the bottom line was it just didn’t matter. The last thing he wanted or needed in his life right now—in any capacity—was a woman. And with this being a busy month for the ranch, he wasn’t exactly happy about having to babysit one for the next two weeks.
Never mind the fact he’d been walking around at half-mast all morning. He just couldn’t get the intoxicating smell of her out of his mind. When she’d squeezed in close last night to read the contract, the sweet scent of apples had wrapped around him like a silk scarf, and all he’d wanted to do was lean forward and bury his face in her glorious auburn mane.
Jesus, there he went again. Focus, you bonehead!
“Hell, I don’t know. Maybe she figures she’ll have me wrapped around her little finger by then.”
James shook his head, a reluctant smile tugging at his lips. “Buy yourself a little black sports car,
. In the long run, it’ll be a whole lot cheaper.” Cal
The older man’s eyes twinkled. “But not nearly as much fun to ride, my friend.”
Thanks for sharing with us today, Donna! Best of luck with Golden Opportunity! I already know it's a great read.
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