It's been a year since her husband's passing, and running the ranch is taking its toll on Claire Hutchins. Independent as the day is long, she concedes the need for help. She wants a foreman, an employee to run the day-to-day who can handle a woman calling the shots. Someone who won't give her any trouble...
Who shows up at her door, first in line for the job? Jeb Carter. Ex-high-school sweetheart. Longtime rodeo star. And the one man capable of making Claire's lust burn out of control...of making her surrender completely.
Trouble has finally come calling...and he's as irresistible as ever.
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Ellora's Cave Publishing, Incorporated
November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Rekindled by Mari Carr
"No. I told you, I need someone who'll stick around, someone who understands how to run a ranch."
"Claire, for chrissake, I grew up on a ranch. I may have rejected the lessons and the lifestyle for a while, but I'm not thick. I know how to run a ranch. And I meant what I said earlier--I'm staying. It's time."
She fought back the instinct to shiver at Jeb's comments. She could read between the lines. "I'm not ready."
"It's been a year. I know you're grieving your husband, but dammit, I can't risk you moving on without me. I made the mistake of giving up on us once. I won't do it again."
She closed her eyes, turned away. She couldn't face him or the memories, the years spent wondering what if. "That was a long time ago. I've grown up, changed."
"I'm banking on that."
She faced him, eyes narrowed. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"When we dated in high school, you were too young, too innocent to handle what I wanted. I know that. You're a woman now. My woman."
"No, I'm not."
"You've been mine since the day you gave me your virginity. I let you slip away once. I've been a patient man. Stayed away these last ten years while you lived your life with Hutchins. I didn't make waves, didn't interfere."
"I'm supposed to believe you traveled with the rodeo not because you loved every minute of it, but because you were avoiding me? Bullshit."
"I love the rodeo. And you're right, I wasn't suffering riding the circuit, but by God, I suffered every time I came home. Every time I saw you with Hutchins, every time I thought of him sharing your bed at night."
"Stop." She put her hand up, anxious to wave away his words. "You and I broke up. We were never right together. You've got to--"
Jeb took a step closer and this time she did move back. "We were right. It's the timing that was wrong. That's not a problem now."
"I can't give you what you want."
He grinned, running the back of his hand along her cheek. "You're the only woman who can give me what I want. It's always been you, Claire."
He bent forward, his intention to kiss her as clear as the Texas sky. "Please don't," she whispered when his lips were a hairsbreadth away from her.
He paused for a moment but didn't retreat. "I've missed you."
She closed her eyes and gave in. She'd missed him too. Terribly. She closed the miniscule inch left between them and offered her lips. The moment they touched his, she was transported to the first time he'd kissed her--the night of the homecoming football game. She'd been sixteen and she remembered how excited she'd been when Jeb asked her to be his date for the dance the following night. He'd kissed her beside the bonfire at the end of the game.
Her first kiss, and it was every bit as beautiful as the one he was giving her now, and she felt all those old feelings rekindled. His lips lightly grazed hers, reawakening feelings she thought had died with her husband. Soon his kiss became hungrier, hotter. She reached up, gripping his neck, making her own demands as she pulled him closer. He rasped his tongue against her lips and she opened her mouth, welcoming him in. His grip on her waist tightened and she sucked in a breath as his hands began moving upward, not stopping until he cupped her breasts.
The kiss continued as Jeb tweaked her nipples through her T-shirt. She spread her legs and began rubbing herself against his thigh. Her body was on fire. It had been so damn long since she felt the slightest spark of desire. She'd have to change her panties at the end of this interlude. She was too wet, too needy.
One of his hands left her breast, rising to grasp her ponytail. She shuddered when he pulled her head back, directing her with slight tugs on her hair, nipping her neck.
"It's still there. Still the same," he whispered against her skin. It had always been this way between them. One kiss and it was as if the entire world had gone up in flames. She struggled to pull away.
"No," she whispered. He hesitated and she could sense him taking stock, trying to decide if she really meant her refusal. She battened down her hatches and pushed against his chest. "No." Her voice was stronger this time. "This isn't the time or place." She glanced out into the yard, relieved none of the ranch hands had walked by and caught her making out with Jeb Carter in the doorway.
She was just so damn tired. It had weakened her resistance. Next time he tried to kiss her, she would be prepared, stronger, better able to fight him off.
"You've got dark circles under your eyes." He studied her face and she knew he wasn't discouraged by her pushing him away. If anything, giving in to his kisses had likely fueled his intentions to claim her...by any means necessary.
She shrugged. "It's been a long month. Hell, a long year."
He grasped her cheeks in his large palms but made no move to draw her closer. "You're gonna hire me."
He was relentless. She chuckled, then conceded. She needed help. "Maybe."
The grin he offered in reply was cocky, smug, and she knew she'd lost this round. Jeb would get his way. "My duffel bag is in the car. Make room for my stuff in your closet."
She narrowed her eyes. "You'll stay in the foreman's cabin and my bedroom door will be locked--every night."
"Maybe." He walked back to his car and she wondered what the hell she'd just unleashed.