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Wedding Bells at Wandering Creek Ranch
P.I. Jack Sullivan, black-eyed and dark-hearted, is at Wandering Creek Ranch on official business--business that doesn't include falling for the striking blonde who tries to throw him off her land....
Willow Kingsley's ranch in the Hollywood Hills is her sanctuary. She'll fight the gorgeous stranger and protect her own. What she doesn't realize is that Jack's on her side, and when she's in his arms he'll do everything in his power to keep her safe....
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April 07, 2008
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Excerpt from Wedding Bells at Wandering Creek Ranch by Patricia Thayer
She looked like every man's fantasy.
Jack Sullivan peered through the grove of oak trees at the woman on horseback. Tall and slender, she rode the large, coal-black stallion with surprising ease. Caught by the breeze, her long wheat-colored hair lifted off her shoulders with each graceful stride. Her slender, jean-clad legs cradled the sides of the horse as they moved through the grassy meadow.
Too bad he wasn't hired to find Willow Kingsley.
Off in the distance, a rocky hillside fringed the seven hundred acres of the Wandering Creek Ranch. Who would have thought an oasis like this existed just thirty miles from Los Angeles? But this ranch was the home of a movie star couple, onetime child star Molly Reynolds and the late western star Matt Kingsley. Their union had produced two children, a son, Dean...and their daughter, Willow.
And Jack was hoping big sister could tell him where to find brother Dean.
A smile appeared on Willow's pretty face as the stallion bobbed its head up and down, protesting her control. She tugged on the reins. "So, you're feeling frisky this morning."
Her voice had a smoky quality, and suddenly, Jack wasn't thinking about business, or about why he'd driven all the way from Seattle to Southern California. Those sultry, whispery tones made him forget that he'd been staking out the ranch for the past twenty-four hours, hoping he'd get lucky and Dean Kingsley would come home to his family. Right now, all Jack could imagine was sister Willow; those long legs, that voice, that...
The stallion whinnied and Jack redirected his attention to the meadow and found Ms. Kingsley was looking at him.
He'd been discovered.
She held her ground and stared back at him. She didn't look happy.
Jack decided since he was on the other side of the electronic fence he wasn't breaking any laws. That wasn't to say as a private investigator he hadn't stretched them a few times. He was used to using any means necessary to locate his suspect.
And he needed to find Kingsley before time ran out...for everyone.
"I would like to talk with you, Ms. Kingsley," he called.
"I don't talk to people who sneak around our property."
"Technically, Ms. Kingsley, I'm not on your property.And I'll leave right away, once you tell me how to find your brother, Dean."
That drew a stronger glare. She just tugged the rein, turned the horse and galloped off.
"Well, you blew that one royally," he chided himself. He prided himself on handling people with charm and wit. Mike had always said, Jack could con the best of them. An image of Mike, his onetime partner and friend flashed in his head.
"I'm not losing my touch, Mike," he muttered as he hiked back to his SUV. "I'm still going to get my man. It just might take a while longer."
An hour later, after she'd finished brushing down Dakota and putting him into his stall, Willow came out of the barn. She usually enjoyed her morning rides, but today's incident had unnerved her a little.
Since her father's death two years ago, the media had left her and her mother alone, and Willow had hoped they'd forgotten about the Kingsley family entirely. But she supposed the reopening of the summer camp was bound to bring out the press again.
On the way to the house, she stopped short when a black SUV pulled into the circular drive, parked, and the stranger from the pasture got out of his car and started toward the porch.
"Don't take another step," she called out and hurried her pace.
The tall, rangy man turned around and had the nerve to smile. "Hello, Ms. Kingsley. I never got the chance to introduce myself. I'm Jack Sullivan."
Willow ignored the intruder's attempt to charm her. "I don't care who you are, only that you're trespassing."
She glanced toward the foreman's quarters. Where was Trevor? It was his job to keep the gate to the road locked so people couldn't invade their privacy.
"If you leave now, Mr. Sullivan, I won't report to the sheriff that you've been stalking me."
"I'm not stalking you, or anyone." He frowned. "As I tried to explain earlier, I'm looking for Dean Kingsley. My business is with him."
Willow didn't recognize the man who was asking about her brother. He looked to be in his midthirties. He was lean, but a black T-shirt revealed a well-developed chest and broad shoulders, only partially hidden under a rust-colored lightweight jacket. Fitted jeans covered his long legs. She felt a shiver of awareness stir inside her, but quickly shook it off.
"My brother doesn't live here, so please leave. Now. You aren't welcome." She waved toward the road that led back to the Southern California freeway.
"Oh, but, I have been welcomed...by Mrs. Kingsley. She let me in the gate. She's who I'm here to see."
Jack took another step toward the house. He wasn't going anywhere until he at least had a chance to talk to his suspect's mother.
"Willow?" A petite woman appeared in the doorway. "Mother, it's okay," her daughter said.