Shoulders as broad and strong as TexasThat was Lucita Sanchez's first thought as Deputy Ripp McCleod rescued her from a crash. Here was a man that a woman could count on. One who wouldn't betray his wife and leave her with a son to raise alone. But as Ripp investigated her "accident" they realized someone had targeted Lucita--and her son might also be in danger.Though Ripp vowed to protect Lucita with his life, he was wary about offering up his heart. Still, the proud yet vulnerable ranching heiress compelled him to stay close. Could this disaster be the best thing that ever happened to them?
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June 30, 2008
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Excerpt from Her Texas Lawman by Stella Bagwell
Was the driver crazy? At this rate he was going to hit her!
The headlights in Lucita Sanchez's rearview mirror were growing closer and closer, blinding her view of the secluded black highway in front of her.
Fear rifled through her, shooting adrenaline to every nerve in her body. Her knuckles in a white grip on the steering wheel, she pressed on the car's accelerator, hoping to pull away from the approaching vehicle.
Was the driver deliberately trying to ram into her? Maybe the driver couldn't see her?
Don't try to kid yourself, Lucita. Someone has been tailing you for weeks now. Long before you moved back to the Sandbur.
The broken white lines in the middle of the highway became one long blur as the speedometer crept toward ninety, then ninety-five. Behind her, the vehicle didn't appear to be relenting. Instead, the headlights seemed to be inching closer and closer to her back bumper.
Her mind was snatching for ways to escape when a jolt from behind lurched her forward in the seat and threatened to wrench the steering wheel from her grip.
The driver was ramming into her car! Someone was trying to kill her!
Dear God, what could she do? Obviously she couldn't outrun the other car. Even at this speed she was in dire danger of crashing. If she tried to pull over and stop, what would the driver do then? Stop and confront her?
She was frantically weighing the consequences of both choices when a black blob suddenly appeared directly in front of her on the highway.
Screaming, Lucita stomped on the brakes to avoid the animal. Her car instantly skidded sideways. Lights flashed as the vehicle spun round and round, end to end. The whipping momentum shot the car across the grassy right-of-way where it smashed through a fence, then crashed straight into an electric pole.
The violent jolt released the air bag and the safety device exploded in her face, the force snapping Lucita's head sideways against the window. She felt a stinging blow, and then she felt nothing at all.
Sometime later, she wasn't sure how long, awareness slowly returned to Lucita. Dazed, she struggled to push herself upright. The air bag had deflated and the nylon fabric was now draped uselessly against the steering wheel. Some sort of white powder was all over her. Apparently the stuff had exploded with the eruption of the air bag.
In front of her, steam was pouring from the crumpled hood and raining down on the cracked windshield. Incredibly, the headlights were still burning, shining a wide swath of light into someone's pasture and illuminating several bulls grazing among a stand of tall mesquite trees.
Where was she? And what had happened?
Shoving strands of light brown hair off her face, she peered out the back windshield. More than fifty yards away, the highway was black and eerily quiet. Apparently no vehicles had passed since she'd rammed into the electric pole, or if anyone had driven by, they'd not stopped to help.
And what about the menacing vehicle that had been behind her? Whoever had been driving had obviously not stopped to offer her a helping hand when they'd witnessed her crash, which only proved the person had been out to do her harm.
With hands shaking violently, she felt along the left side of the dash and managed to turn off the headlights. The idiot who'd rammed into her just might decide to return and she didn't want the headlights of her disabled car to be shouting, here I am.
As total darkness settled around her, she realized the shoulder strap on the safety belt was biting into her throat. She reached for the buckle at her waist, then cursed beneath her breath as her fingers fumbled with the latch several times before she finally managed to unfasten it. Once she was free from the belt's restraint, she breathed a tiny sigh of relief.
Now, she needed to find her purse, she thought, as she tried to come up with a plan. Her cell phone was inside the bag. If all the jolting hadn't damaged it, she could get help within a few minutes.
Like a blind person, she flattened her hands and began to pat carefully along the seats and the floorboard. After several attempts, she finally discovered the handbag behind the passenger seat. Thankfully, the bag was zipped shut and the cell phone was exactly where she'd placed it.
When the instrument lit up, she sent up a silent prayer of thanks and quickly punched in 911. After informing the dispatcher of her accident and approximate location, she put the phone away and leaned back in the seat. Her family had gone to dinner at a neighbor's and she didn't want to bother them until she had to.
Lucita's mind tumbled with questions as to what to do next. Should she get out of the car to wait? Even though she didn't smell any fumes, the thing could be leaking gasoline, and any kind of spark might ignite flames. But knee-deep grass and weeds surrounded the car and rattlesnakes were as thick as rats in this area of Texas.