From the moment he first saw his son, ranchman Dylan Greer knew the baby he'd adopted was his in every way that mattered. And no one--not even the beautiful, strong-willed cop who claimed she was the child's mother--was going to change that. Collena Drake swore a criminal ring had stolen her baby and that someone was crossing every line to keep the illegal adoption secret. Now, in order to protect one innocent child, Collena made him a tempting offer: get married and share custody. As a businessman, Dylan thought the plan brilliant. But as a man...resisting his "bride," especially as the danger mounted, would be damn near impossible.
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March 10, 2008
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Excerpt from The Horseman's Son by Delores Fossen
"Sir, we have an intruder on the grounds," the housekeeper warned Dylan Greer.
Dylan's stomach clenched into a cold, hard knot. He silently cursed, said a brusque goodbye to his business associate in London and dropped the phone back onto its cradle.
An intruder. Well, the person had picked a good day for it.
It was Thanksgiving morning, barely minutes after sunrise, and he'd given most of his household help time off for the holiday. He was understaffed. Plus, there was a snowstorm moving in. With the already slick, icy roads, it'd probably take the sheriff at least twenty minutes to get out to the ranch.
"Where is he?" Dylan asked Vergie, the housekeeper, through the two-way speaker positioned on his desk.
"The north birthing stables."
In other words, too close to the house. That meant Dylan had to take care of this on his own. "Call the sheriff," Dylan instructed Vergie as he unlocked his center desk drawer and took out the Sig Sauer that he'd hoped he would never have to use. He grabbed his thick shearling coat from the closet and put his gun and his cell phone in the pocket.
"You want me to tell Hank to go out there with you?" Vergie asked.
"No." Hank, the handyman, was seventy-two and had poor eyesight and hearing. Besides, this might be Dylan's chance to have a showdown with the person who'd made his life a living hell.
Dylan worked quickly to get the information he needed. He used his security surveillance laptop to bring up the camera image of the exterior of the birthing stables. It wasn't the most vulnerable spot on his six-hundred-and-thirty acres, but it did have one major security flaw.
Anyone could have parked on the dirt road a quarter of a mile away from his property, climbed the eight-foot-tall wooden fence and made their way across the pasture to the stables. Not an effortless undertaking in the cold, but it was doable.
And, on his computer screen, he saw the person who'd managed that feat.
There, next to the birthing-stable doors, was a shadowy figure holding a pair of binoculars. The person was dressed all in black. Black pants, bulky black coat and a knit cap. That attire and those binoculars weren't positive signs. Whoever it was hadn't dropped by to wish him a happy Thanksgiving.
Mercy, did he really have a killer on the grounds?
With everything that'd happened, Dylan couldn't take the chance that this was all some innocent intrusion.
"Lock up when I leave," Dylan instructed the housekeeper from the intercom. "And call me immediately if our guest moves closer to the house."
He left through the French doors of his office and stepped into the bitter cold. It wasn't officially even winter yet, but the weather obviously didn't know that--it was a good twenty degrees below normal. The wind howled out of the north, slamming right through his jacket, shirt, jeans and boots. A few snowflakes whirled through the air.
The birthing stables were on the opposite side of the house from where he'd exited, so Dylan knew the intruder hadn't seen him with those binoculars. He ran, following a row of Texas sagebrush and mountain laurel, hoping the shrubbery would conceal him for as long as possible. He wanted the element of surprise on his side. Correction. He needed that. Because this person might have already committed murder.
With that brutal reminder crawling through his head, Dylan took out his gun so that he'd be ready. He had to protect his son at all costs, and if necessary, that would include an out-and-out fight. He wasn't going to lose someone else he loved to this nameless, faceless SOB.
Though the cold burned his lungs and his boots seemed unsteady on the ice-scabbed pasture grass, he didn't slow down until he reached the stables. Dylan went to the rear of the building so he could approach the intruder from behind, and peered around the corner. The person in black hadn't moved an inch and was about fifty feet away.
He checked his watch. It'd been nearly fifteen minutes since the housekeeper had called the sheriff, and there was no sign of him. Dylan decided not to wait.
The wind worked in his favor. It was whipping so hard against the stables that it muffled his footsteps, and he halved the distance before he was heard. Dylan already had his gun aimed and ready when the intruder dropped the binoculars and spun around.
It was a woman.
She was pale and trembling, probably from the cold, and she reached inside her jacket, as if it were an automatic response to draw a weapon.
"Don't," Dylan warned. He wanted her alive to answer the questions he'd wanted to ask for twelve years.
She nodded and without hesitation lifted her gloved hands in surrender. "Dylan Greer," she said.
It wasn't exactly a question so Dylan didn't bother to confirm it. "Mind telling me why you're trespassing on my property?"