It falls on Tanner’s shoulders to take on the ranch and keep an eye on his father before he falls victim to another heart attack. But Julia doesn’t appreciate Tanner coming in or pursuing her. Even if he’s hot as hell and can make her quiver with just a look. Ousting her may give Tanner the leverage he needs to corral his father, but first he has to wrestle with his own heart.
About the Author
Heather Long is a national bestselling author who likes long walks in the park, science fiction, superheroes, and Marines. Her books are filled with heroes and heroines tangled in romances as hot as her native Texas summertime.
The second beer meant he’d already decided to stay in town. He didn’t drink often, but the second one tasted even better than the first. He might as well have a third. The crowd thickened and the volume on the music rose as the group on the floor slid, stomped, and danced to a two-step. Merriment reigned, shells crunched, sawdust kicked up, and the fans overhead went to work clearing the air. In the cor- ner, a band set up their gear, and after the two-step ended, the musicians kicked it up a notch.
Whoever the group was they had talent, and as Tanner studied the newcomers, he focused on a woman who slid over to the bar and drained a glass of water while the mu sicians found their rhythm. A minute later, she glided back onto the dance floor.
For the next three songs, she traded partners. The woman could move. Tall, long-legged, and beautifully curved, she also had a gorgeous face, from her generous mouth—which pulled into an easy smile—to her sweet, dark eyes. Dark hair clung to her cheeks, and her sleeveless white top gave Tan- ner a good look at her toned arms.
He didn’t know her. She didn’t even ring a familiar bell, but she sure as hell looked fun. When she waved off a fourth man swooping in for a dance and headed to the bar, Tanner enjoyed the light, strutting cadence to her walk. Someone had taken her spot, so she sidled up to the bar next to him.
Fanning her face with one hand, she gave him a cool, quick grin, then waved at Sully. The bartender slid a glass of water over to her. “You ready for a glass of wine yet, darlin’?”
“In a bit.” She took a long drink of the water. The slender column of her throat convulsed with each swallow, and a fresh wave of lust crashed through Tanner. Damn, what he wouldn’t give to trade places with the glass.
“Put her wine on my tab, Sully,” Tanner called. The number of dance partners and lack of a ring gave him hope she was free. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
“No, thank you,” the country goddess declined in a smooth, polite tone. “I’ll take care of my own drinks.”
Sully hid a smirk, but he had other customers.
“No need to be testy, ma’am.” He lifted his beer. “Just offering to buy you a drink.”
“Not being testy at all.” She turned sideways and gave him a once-over. “And you didn’t offer—you just decided to do it, sir.” The cool dismissal didn’t possess an ounce of malice or disrespect. “I simply like to pay my own way, and never accept offers from strangers.”
“Hard to make an acquaintance if you don’t.” Though he couldn’t fault her. Even the women in his unit or those he’d met on assignment at various bases around the world maintained a sense of control over their environment, both in what they would tolerate from others and what they would accept. “My apologies for overstepping. I’m Tanner, by the way.”
Offering his hand, he waited as she took a beat before wiping her palm against her jeans and then accepting the handshake. “My friends call me Jules.”
“Jules.” Was it short for Julianna? Or Julie? Something else entirely? He liked the sound of it. Maybe it was the beer mellowing him out. Maybe it was being home. Or maybe it was simply watching her, but he wanted to spend some time with Miss Jules.
“Is it all right if I call you Jules?”
“I said my friends call me Jules; you can call me ma’am.” She chuckled, then drained her glass of water and started watching the band. They’d switched to a slow song. Shaking her head, she lifted the hair from the back of her neck. From her flushed cheeks to the gleam in her dark eyes, she was stunning.
“I’d be happy to call you ma’am.” The sentence worked, and Jules returned her attention to him and her eyebrows raised. “Tell me, ma’am, may I have the next dance?”