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A Love as Bold as a Texas Sunset . . .
Ex-army medic Katya Smith has always healed other people's pain. Now she has to deal with her own. Taking a job as an athletic trainer on the Pro Bull Riding circuit seems like the perfect escape from her grief-except Katya doesn't know anything about bulls, and even less about the tough men who ride them. She doesn't expect to fall for the sport, or for one tantalizing cowboy who tumbles her defenses.
For rodeo champion Cam Cahill, fifteen years of bucking bulls have taken their toll on his body. Before he retires, he wants a final chance at the world title-and he doesn't need some New Age gypsy telling him how to do his job. But when the stunning trainer with the magical hands repairs more than his worn muscles, everything changes. Soon Cam finds himself trying to persuade Katya to forgive her past so she can build a future . . . with him.
About the author:
Laura Drake grew up in the suburbs outside Detroit, though her stories are set in the west. A tomboy, she's always loved the outdoors and adventure. In 1980 she and her sister packed everything they owned into Pintos and moved to California. There she met and married a motorcycling, bleed-maroon Texas Aggie and her love affair with the West was born. Laura rides motorcycles: Elvis, a 1985 BMW Mystic, and Sting, a 1999 BMW R1100.
In Texas, Laura was introduced to her first rodeo, and fell in love. She's an avid fan of Pro Bull Riding (PBR,) attending any event within driving distance, including two PBR National finals. She is hard at work at her next novel.
Katya looked around the restaurant. Surrounded by trees outside, the interior was exposed timber and glass, giving The Wild Side the feel of a hunting lodge in the woods. The fieldstone fireplace with its cheery gas log fire and the trophy animal heads on the wall carried out the theme.
“Well? What do you think?” Cam smiled at her from across the linen-covered table, the dimple in his cheek deepening.
“That gazelle looks pissed. I think he wants his body back.” The unblinking stare of the animals on the walls gave her the willies, so she kept her eyes on Cam. Well, maybe that wasn’t the only reason. His royal blue Western-cut shirt showed off his washed-blue eyes. The candlelight fractured in them, and she had a hard time looking anywhere else. He’d taken off his hat when he sat down, but it left a mark in his short, hollow-gold hair. She took a sip of her white wine to cool off. God, if he were on the menu, this place would be overrun with women.
He chuckled, and when the waiter walked over with menus, he held up a hand. “Will you trust me to order?” He gave her a one-sided smile, an eyebrow raised in challenge.
“I guess I’ll trust you that far.”
Not much farther though. She had no doubt that smile had separated dozens of women from their panties. Don’t forget, you don’t belong here. Why did she have to keep reminding herself of that lately?
He ordered something called the Hunter’s Feast for Two. When the waiter walked away, Cam turned his attention back to her. “You drive a hard bargain, Ms. Smith. It cost me dearly to get you sitting across the table from me. Are you sure you aren’t a horse trader on the side?”
She snorted. “I should have warned you, it’s in my blood. My great-great grandfather made enough money trading horses to bring his family to America.”
Might as well get it out in the open. In spite of the modern push to accept “cultural diversity,” there was still a lot of prejudice against her kind. “I don’t just dress Gypsy, Cam. I am Gypsy.”
“No kidding?” The touch of his regard settled on her. “I know so little about you. Where did you grow up?”
Well, he’d answered her questions. No harm in answering a few benign ones of his. “In DC. But my summers I spent with my Gypsy family, in Chicago.”
“What was that like?”
“It was heaven. I’m an only child. But in Chicago, my huge extended family took me in every summer and folded me into the clan.” She smiled, seeing Grand’s apartment in her mind. “It was like stepping into another world. Like I lived two different lives.”
“When did you join the army?”
“After nine/eleven. A lot of people joined then.”
“I wouldn’t have guessed you for a soldier, but once I knew it, lots of things made sense. Did you like it?”
“I loved it. In a way, it was like Chicago. Another kind of family. We rely on each other under hard times and stressful circumstances. It forges a strong bond.”
“You miss it.”
Once again, his eyes made her nervous, seeing too much. “Something happened over there, didn’t it?”
“I miss it.”
The waiter brought their salads, breaking the pull of his gaze. That gaze made her want to talk, to spill her dark story all over the pristine tablecloth, staining everything.
She lifted her fork. “Tell me about your family. Where are you from?”
They chatted about safe subjects until their meal arrived; a huge platter of unrecognizable meat, without a vegetable in sight. Unless fried potatoes qualified.
He looked it over. “I’m torn. I’m afraid if I tell you what’s here, you won’t eat it, and you’d miss out on some great food. But I don’t want to ambush you either. So you tell me. Do you want to know?”
She picked up her fork, stabbed a deep-fried Rocky Mountain oyster, and popped it in her mouth.
His eyes got big. “Wait, that’s a—”
“Cow testicle, I know.” She licked her lips. “I have to say, it’s better than sheep, but not as good as camel.” She glanced around for the waiter, then back to him. “Do you think they have hot sauce?”
His eyes got bigger. “I think I’m in love,” he breathed.
THE BAYOU'S BADDEST BAD BOY IS BACK!
Joining the Navy was the second best thing that ever happened to Justin "Cage" LeBlanc, the rebel son of a no-account convict. The first was Emelie Gaudet, the love of his life . . . until he was forced to leave town and swore there would be snow on the bayou before he ever returned. Now, only his mortally ill grandma can bring the injured Navy SEAL back to Terrebone Parrish, where he must face his past-and Emelie, who's even more beautiful than she was all those years ago.
Bourbon Street blues singer Emelie is once bitten, twice shy. When she learns that Justin is back in town, she wants nothing to do with the once wild Cajun teenager who fled with the law on his tail-and broke her heart. But she can't deny the red-hot attraction between them . . . or his efforts to prove he's finally changed his hell-raising ways. Can she trust that this time the bad boy of the bayou will be the best man for her?
About the author:
Sandra Hill is a graduate of Penn State and worked for more than 10 years as a features writer and education editor for publications in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Writing about serious issues taught her the merits of seeking the lighter side of even the darkest stories. She is the wife of a stockbroker and the mother of four sons.
Leaning back against the van and spreading his legs so she could fit into the cradle of his hips, Cage realized something in that moment. He had never stopped loving Emelie. He kissed the top of her head…she still used that lemon-scented shampoo…then kissed her chin and the knuckles that continued to hold the packet of letters in a death grip. Pulling a handkerchief out of his back pocket, he used it to wipe the tears off her face and made her blow her nose hard.
Then, he framed her head with trembling fingers that combed into both sides of her hair, and he really kissed her. With all the love and yearning he’d built up over the years. Suppressed emotions exploded in him, emotions he hadn’t even known he’d been suppressing, not this late in the game, anyhow. He was out of control.
Then, Thank you God, she was out of control, too. Somewhere along the way she’d dropped the letters to the ground and wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing him back with equal fervor.
There was a roaring in his ears, and his mind went blank. His body zapped into sensory overload with each of her soft caresses to his neck and shoulders, with the arching of her body against his, with the opening of her mouth to his deep kisses.
At one point his palms had landed on her butt and he raised her against his erection. Sweet! Sweet agony!
Women had two surefire weapons when it came to men. Sex and tears. Cage was being assaulted by both of them, and he welcomed the attack, even if he would be bullet-ridden in the end.
At this moment, as he feasted on the woman in his arms, there were no jagged splinters of past betrayals, no dark shadows of regret, no questions of what might have been, or could be. No anger. Not even a Toby Keith cynical message of “How Do You Like Me Now?” which he had to admit he’d harbored on occasion in the past. Just the now. And now was glorious.
MawMaw was probably watching them through the kitchen window, but he didn’t care. This was the girl he loved and she was back in his arms. Nothing was going to stop him now.
Except something did.
The slamming of car doors.
“Yoo-hoo!” someone yelled, and it wasn’t Belle and her boys. It was that Cajun wackjob Tante Lulu, with pink hair that matched a pink t-shirt proclaiming “I May Be Old, But There Are Parts of Me That Still Zing.” With her grinning niece Charmaine in a hoochie-mama, leopard print cat suit. Noticing the direction of his stare, Tante Lulu remarked, “I know. I tol’ her ta be careful. That get-up’s so tight, folks will see her religion.”
Cage pressed his forehead against Em’s, praying that his hard-on wouldn’t be evident. Em moaned; she had a few thing to hide, too, like her nipples under the thin silk shirt she wore, tucked into a pair of denims. “We came to help,” Charmaine said, smacking him on the butt as she passed by, carrying a box overflowing with plastic containers of food.
“Jist in time, by the looks of things,” Tante Lulu remarked. She was also carrying food. Looked like one of those lidded cake carriers. “Best I hurry up with your hope chest, boy. Guar-an-teed!”
It's been two years since Jessy Lawrence lost her husband in Afghanistan, and she's never fully recovered. Drowning her sorrows didn't help, and neither did the job she'd hoped would give her a sense of purpose. Now trying to rebuild her life, she finds solace in her best friends, fellow military wives who understand what it's like to love-and lose-a man in uniform . . . and the memory of one stolen night that makes her dream of a second chance at love.
Dalton Smith has known more than his fair share of grief. Since his wife's death, he revels in the solitude of his cattle ranch. But try as he might, he can't stop thinking about the stunning redhead and the reckless, passionate night they shared. He wasn't ready before, but Dalton sees now that Jessy is the only woman who can mend his broken heart. So how will he convince her to take a chance on him?
About the author:
Known for her intensely emotional stories, Marilyn Pappano is the USA Today bestselling author of nearly eighty books. She has made regular appearances on bestseller lists and has received recognition for her work in the form of numerous awards. Though her husband's Navy career took them across the United States, he and Ms. Pappano now live in Oklahoma high on a hill that overlooks her hometown. They have one son and daughter-in-law, an adorable grandson, and a pack of mischievous dogs.
Dalton thought he was just about free to go when the photographer called the wedding party back for pictures, first in the sanctuary, then outside in the warm sun. He hadn’t had to hold a smile for such a long time that his face muscles were starting to protest when the guy decided ten thousand shots were enough.
Finally he could slip out of his jacket. His cattle’s blackand-white coats might keep them warm in winter and cool in summer, but he was about to dissolve into a giant drop of sweat. As the rest of the guests came out of the church to say good-bye to the happy couple, he loosened his tie, then saw Jessy, standing in the shade of an oak, arms folded over her middle, watching him.
God, she’d been watching him all through the reception, and him her. He couldn’t say why he hadn’t approached her, asked her to share a piece of cake, talk with him, dance with him. Then his gut clenched hard, his chest tightening, and he remembered: because he would have spontaneously combusted, and wouldn’t that have been an ugly page in Dane and Carly’s wedding album? From the moment he’d walked into the church and seen her sitting there all beautiful and sexy and focused on him, all he could think was, Is it time? Please, can it be time?
He was surprised God hadn’t struck him down where he stood.
It was stupid, he thought as he walked to her. He was thirty-two years old. He’d been married. He’d had sex with his share of women. Hell, he’d had sex with this woman. But he hadn’t known then what he knew now. Then it had been horniness and loneliness, and any woman who persisted until he was drunk would have satisfied. Now it was . . .
Well, he didn’t know what it was, exactly. Important.
They had something special, a second chance for both of them to make things right, to
make each other right. Something to not screw up.