Noah Cooper is in Kerry Springs to do a job, and as a Texas Ranger, he can't afford distraction. A pity, then, that at the center of the mystery is irresistible Lilly Perry... . Independent Lilly's determined to stay a single mom, so having a gorgeous lodger such as Noah Cooper in her house is hardly ideal. He may be amazing with her kids, but Lilly can't stop thinking about kissing him! Wanting is one thing... but with all the secrets that lie between them, can either of them ever really trust the other?
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October 01, 2011
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Excerpt from Tall, Dark, Texas Ranger by Patricia Thayer
Could this be his lucky day?
Noah Cooper drove down Maple Street and saw the Cottage For Rent sign in the front yard of the three-story Victorian house. He couldn't get any closer if he'd planned it. Now all he had to do was make sure he became the new tenant. He parked his truck at the curb under the large tree and climbed out, immediately feeling the Texas heat.
He also felt a stir of excitement as he made his way up the walk to the porch and climbed the crumbling concrete steps to the peeling porch floor and rang the bell.
It was a new job. A new challenge.
No answer. He glanced down and saw the sign on the doorknob that read, Gone Quilting.
Not to be detoured, he followed the wraparound porch to a set of stairs and a pathway that led to a large backyard. Even though the house looked a little shabby there were colorful flowers that filled the beds and the lawn had been recently cut. He guessed it paid to have family in the landscaping business.
In the back of the large lot he spotted a second structure. It was a much smaller scale, but the cottage was a single-story clapboard with decorative shutters. The same gray and burgundy colors that were faded and peeling as the main house. Even though it might be a little feminine for his tastes, the location was ideal. He started for the door, hoping to get a look inside.
Stepping up onto the small porch, he saw the door ajar and heard music. Peering inside, he found a main living area with a brick fireplace. On the other wall was a row of cabinets with compact appliances and a small table with two chairs. The place was furnished, but from what era? That was when he spotted the movement.
A woman was on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor, keeping in time with the country song. Her nice shapely bottom swaying back and forth as her arms fought against the dirty tile, singing along with Carrie underwood. Rich brown hair with golden strands was pulled up in a knot on top of her head, but most had escaped. Her tank top and shorts showed off a trim but curvy body.
His body suddenly came alive. In his profession that didn't happen often, especially in the past year. But now wasn't the time to suddenly get his libido back. He had a job to do.
"Excuse me, ma'am," he called over the music.
Lilly heard her name and looked over her shoulder to find the stranger. She jumped, nearly hitting her head on the table.
She swore softly and the man started toward her. Holding up her hand, she stopped him from coming too close.
"Are you all right?"
With a nod, she managed to get to her feet and shut off the music. Then she turned around to get a look at her intruder.
Big. Tall. He had nearly black hair, thick and wavy, but his eyes were a whiskey-brown. He was dressed in faded jeans and a chambray shirt and boots much like south Texans, but she'd grown suspicious of any strangers.
"Who are you?" she said a little too harshly.
He didn't look to be intimidated at all. "I'm hoping I'll be your new tenant," the man said with a nod of his head. "I'm Noah Cooper."
"Lilly Perry, but I'm not the landlord. It's my mother, Beth Staley, who owns the place and she rents out this cottage." When her mother had decided to rent the cottage, they hadn't talked about who they'd rent to, but surely not a...stranger. "You'll have to come back."
"Do you know when that will be?"
Lilly felt an odd feeling go through her as the man continued to stare at her. As if those deep-set eyes could read her thoughts. "To be honest, Mr. Cooper--"
"It's Coop," he interrupted. "I go by Coop."
"Coop," she repeated. "I believe there's someone else interested in the place."
He nodded toward the door. "The sign is still up in the yard."
He'd got her there. "Well, it's not official. I'm just letting you know so you don't get too excited."
"I guess I need to come back and talk to Mrs. Staley then. When will she be back?"
Lilly shrugged. "It's hard to say, she's with her friends quilting. It could be hours."
He nodded, looking disappointed. "Okay. I guess I'll have to wait."
He turned to leave when she heard the familiar voice. "Mom! Mom! Where are you?"
"I'm in here, Robbie," she called and went to the door.
As fast as lightning, the five-year-old raced through the cottage door. "Colin and Cody are going swimming and they asked me to go, too. Can I, can I? Please."
"Robbie, slow down." She brushed back her son's blond hair that fell over his forehead. He stared back at her with blue eyes so like his father's. It still caused her chest to tighten at the memories of their previous life. A father he'd never know.
"If it's okay with Colin and Cody's mom?"
"Yeah, she said you could probably get some more work done without me underfoot."
She wanted to grin. Her son started talking at a year and hadn't slowed down since. "Maybe I should just put you to work, too."
He wrinkled his freckled nose. "Mom, I'm only five years old."
"Funny, yesterday you were counting the days to your sixth birthday."
"But I'm still a kid. I need to have some fun. It's summer vacation." Her son finally noticed Mr. Cooper. "Hi, who are you? I'm Robbie Perry."
"Robbie, this is Mr. Cooper," she said, keeping a protective hand on her child's shoulders.