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The Texas Rancher's Vow and Found: One Baby
Jen Carson made a promise to herself: no more powerful, controlling husbands.
So why is she letting herself be tempted by Matt Briscoe, surely the most alpha male in Laramie County? She only agreed to stay at the Triple B to create a series of commemorative bronze plaques for Matt's father. Not end up sharing taboo kisses with six feet four inches of irresistible cowboy.
A cowboy who also happens to be her client's son. Talk about mixing pleasure with business! And now Jen's suddenly the reluctant keeper of a Briscoe family secret. Which thrusts her into an even more heated conflict with Matt. No matter how strong her feelings for the studly rancher, Jen has so many good reasons to keep him from becoming a permanent part of her life.
Too bad her heart won't listen to her head....
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Harlequin Enterprises, Limited
July 01, 2012
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Excerpt from The Texas Rancher's Vow and Found: One Baby by Cathy Gillen Thacker
"I know what he said, but it's not your artistic talent that my father is interested in."
Jen stared the unexpected visitor to her Austin gallery. Matt Briscoe was six foot four inches of incredibly determined, swaggering cowboy. As well as handsome to a fault.
Knowing it would irritate him as much as he had already irritated her, she let her glance drift slowly over his ruggedly chiseled face to his thatch of curly black hair. It was cut short in a way that wouldn't require much maintenance. His beard was another matter. He had the kind of dark, dangerous-looking scruff that never totally disappeared no matter how closely he shaved. The kind that made her suspect the man just oozed testosterone. In bed. And out. "And you know this because...?" Jen prodded.
Eyes the color of the Texas summer sky zeroed in on hers. Lingered. Just long enough to get her pulse racing in a way she most definitely did not like.
The corner of his sensual mouth lifting slightly, Matt Briscoe continued brusquely, "In the past ten years Emmett's married--and divorced--a novelist, a violinist and an actress."
Okay, so that not only wasn't a good personal track record to have, it didn't portend well for her future dealings with the wealthy Texas cattleman.
On the other hand, Jen reminded herself, Emmett Briscoe hadn't been hitting on her--or even flirting with her--when he had made the appointment.
On the phone, Matt's sixty-year-old father had been all business, and perfectly polite.
Unlike the blunt-to-a-fault younger man standing in front of her.
Jen took a calming breath and forced herself to look around the small but respectable gallery she had leased to display her work.
She was a sculptress--and a darn fine one at that--whether Matt Briscoe chose to acknowledge it or not. So she wasn't going to let him, or anyone else in his blue-blooded, Texas ranching class disparage her.
"This leads you to believe that your father would now turn to a practitioner of the visual arts--for female company?"
Matt flinched. Her assumption had clearly struck a nerve. "For more reasons than you could possibly understand," he retorted gruffly. "Yes. It does."
He really thought her a gold digger?
Jen folded her arms beneath her breasts. "Well, you'll be happy to know, Matt Briscoe, that I am not looking for a sugar daddy."
He rested his hands on his hips, pushing back the edges of his lightweight summer sport coat, then rocked forward on the toes of his expensive, hand-tooled leather boots. "It wouldn't start out that way."
Unable to take the raw masculine intensity of his gaze, Jen focused her attention on the strong column of his suntanned throat, visible in the open collar of his pale blue dress shirt.
Damn, he smelled good. Outdoorsy and brisk and male. Not that she should be noticing, she thought firmly.
Indignantly, she forced her glance upward and continued as if he hadn't spoken, "Nor am I looking to get married again. Ever."
His gaze meshed with hers. Something that might have been empathy appeared all too briefly in his expression. "So you've been.?"
"Divorced." Old bitterness welled inside her, filling her heart, keeping the force field of independence up and running. "Yes." Jen nodded. She wasn't ashamed, just regretful. "I have."
Matt inclined his head, murmured conversationally, "Then you understand how difficult it can be to end something that never should have begun."
He was so close. Too close. Her heart skipped another beat.
She stepped back a pace. "I do."
"So do I," he returned softly, as if that fact somehow bonded them. Put them on the same page. With the same goals and values.
But she and Matt--and his very wealthy father--weren't joined in anything, Jen reminded herself sternly.
Any more than she and her ex and his family had ever been.
Yes, there had been instances of closeness. Moments when she had hoped--even imagined--that everything would turn out all right. Only to find out that Dex had an agenda of his own that left her in the dust. Not to mention disgraced and completely heartbroken.
Never again, Jen had vowed, would she allow herself to be used as a pawn between a wealthy scion and his family.
That was truer now than ever. As was her goal of wanting her own financial stability.
Determined to let Matt Briscoe know where he stood with her, she smirked. "Now why doesn't it surprise me that you're a veteran of divorce, too?" She stepped away and snapped her fingers. "Oh, I've got it. Your outright charm."
He remained motionless, his expression a blank slate.
Jen noticed he neither claimed nor disavowed what she had just alleged. Which meant what? He was single? Involved? It certainly didn't look as if he was married, since he wasn't wearing a wedding ring.
"I'm trying to be forthright with you--in a way my dad likely won't be, at least not in the beginning," Matt said gruffly.
His words had the ring of truth, but it made them no less offensive and overbearing. Jen stepped closer once again and dropped her voice a notch. "What you're trying to do, Matt Briscoe, is intimidate me for your own reasons." Something else she was oh too familiar with... The alleged "good guy" who was at heart a selfish jerk.
Jaw hardening, he shook his head. "Let's just cut to the chase, shall we? I'll double whatever he's offering for you if you don't show up."