You could knock Rafe Callahan over with a feather. He and the very prim, very proper Judge Julie Jenkins are having triplets! Rafe doesn't expect their precious news to end the bad blood between the Callahans and Jenkinses. And as for saving his family's New Mexico ranch, with three brothers married off, Rafe's in fourth place. But that doesn't stop the die-hard bachelor from proposing--feud or no feud.
Julie always had a soft spot for the long, lean cowboy. But Rafe's still a Callahan, and if she says "I do," she'll be dealing with an army of bad-tempered in-laws and out-laws. Rafe's promised her it wouldn't be forever--just until their baby girls are born. That doesn't stop the mother-to-be from dreaming of a future at Rancho Diablo--with Rafe as the happy father!
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January 01, 2012
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Excerpt from His Valentine Triplets by Tina Leonard
"Rafe is too smart for his own good."
--Molly Callahan, recognizing the seeds of mayhem in her too-bright toddler
As Augusts in New Mexico went, it was a hot one. Rafe Callahan stared at Judge Julie Jenkins in her black robe in the Diablo courtroom and felt a bit of an itch. Was it the heat, or was he just thinking about what they'd done in July when his steer had gotten tangled in her fence?
"Counsel," Julie snapped to his brother, Sam. "Why should I recuse myself from hearing State v. Callahan? Have you any substantive reason to assume that I could not hear proceedings in this matter fairly?"
"Judge Jenkins," Sam said deferentially, "as you know, your father, Bode Jenkins, has brought suit against our ranch, invoking the law of eminent domain."
"Not my father," Julie said, her tone stiff. "The State handles matters of eminent domain."
Yeah, Rafe thought, and everyone but Julie seems to understand that her father is in it up to his neck with every government official and thief in the local and state governments. Good ol' Dad can never do anything wrong in his little girl's eyes, and vice versa.
Julie's gaze flashed to him, then away. Guilt. It was written all over her beautiful face. He knew what was under that prim black robe, and it was the stuff of dreams, a body made for the gods. He'd been lucky enough to find the chink in her sturdy armor--a testament to the fact that she couldn't resist him, Rafe thought smugly.
He'd made her guilty. Julie knew very well that their night together meant she should step down from this case.
"Mr. Callahan," Julie said to Sam, after sending another defensive glare Rafe's way, "it seems to me that you have no good reason why I shouldn't hear State v. Rancho Diablo?"
Sam, the crack-the-whip attorney assigned to saving the Callahan family fortunes, looked down at his notes, marshaling his thoughts. It was important that Julie not be the judge hearing this case, Rafe knew--as did all six Callahan brothers--because she was completely partial to her father. What good daughter would not be? But Julie seemed to have it in her mind that the case was purely New Mexico versus the Callahans, not Jenkins versus Callahans, Hatfield and McCoy style.
Ah, but he knew how to bring little Miss Straitlaced to heel. He hated to do it. She'd been a sweet love that one night, and a virgin, which wasn't so much a shock as it had been a pleasure he'd remember forever. He got warm all over, and stiff where he shouldn't be at the moment. There was something about those brown eyes and midnight hair that just undid him, never mind that she had enough sass in her to send up fireworks.
But this was war, unfortunately, and the Callahans needed all the help they could get to draw level with Bode Jenkins and his bag of crafty tricks. Rafe stood, and with Julie's gaze clapped on him warily, leaned over to whisper to Sam. He could feel her eyes on him, as well as those of his brothers, his aunt Fiona and uncle Burke's, and half the town, who'd come to hear today's proceedings. Julie wouldn't want to be embarrassed in front of the people who'd helped raise her after her mother died. But it had to be done.
So he whispered some nonsense in Sam's ear about the price of pork bellies, all the while knowing that Julie thought he was telling Sam about their passion-filled sexcapade.
"Now act surprised," he said to Sam, and his brother pasted a dramatic and appropriately shocked expression on his face.
Julie said quickly, "Would counsel step up, please?"
Sam went to Julie, as did the lawyer for the State, a slick Bode yes-man if Rafe had ever seen one.
"I'll consider recusing myself," Rafe heard Julie say, her tone soft yet tinged with anger. His ear stretched out a foot trying to hear every word. "But I'm not happy that you've indicated I don't hear cases completely fairly. I've never been asked to recuse myself before, and I feel this is another case of Callahan manipulation, for which they are famous."
Her accusing stare landed on Rafe, and he couldn't help himself. He grinned. She stiffened, so cute in her judge getup, but completely naked to his eyes. It was as if she knew it.
After a long glare his way, during which time he noted her pink cheeks, and her full lips pressed flat with annoyance, she said, "Court will adjourn while I consider the motion. We will resume in one hour. And Mr. Callahan," she said, her voice tight as she addressed Rafe, "I'd like to speak with you in my chambers, please. Counsel will not be required."
"You've done it now," Sam said in a low voice. "She's going to eat you alive, scales and all. It's your fault, too, for sitting there smirking at her."
"I can't help it," Rafe said. "She just looks so stiff and formal in that robe. I remember tacking her hair to her desk in biology class, and chasing her on the playground. It's hard for me to take her seriously."
"She's going to teach you the meaning of respect, dude. Good luck. I'm off to get a hot dog." Sam sauntered away, his conscience clear, unconcerned about his brother's impending misfortune.
Rafe sighed and approached the chamber of doom.
"Come in, please, Mr. Callahan, and close the door."
She sounded like a vinegary old schoolteacher. Rafe sat down, and tried to arrange his face into the most respectful expression he possessed.
"Mr. Callahan," Julie began, and he automatically said, "You can call me Rafe. I'm not a formal guy."
She nodded. "As you wish. And you can call me Judge Jenkins."
He nodded, reminding himself not to grin at her prissy tone. The fact was, Julie was in command of their futures at Rancho Diablo. If they could get her to recuse herself, they could probably get a more impartial judge to hear their case. This thought alone kept Rafe from smiling. He even tried his damnedest not to stare at Julie's legs, shapely stems skimmed by the black robe, and elongated by high-heeled black pumps. Very severe, and very sexy. She wore her ebony hair in a no-nonsense upsweep, which made her look like a dark-eyed, exotic princess. She wore a lipstick that was a shade off red, and he wanted to kiss her lips until there was no lipstick left on her.
But he couldn't. So he waited for her ire to recede.
"Mr. Callahan," she began again, "you may be under the misapprehension that because we have had an engagement of a personal nature--"
"Sex," he said.
Her full lips pursed for a moment. "You may be under a misapprehension that I will tolerate disrespect in my court."
"No, Judge. I have the utmost respect for you."
Her big brown eyes blinked. "Then quit smiling at me in the courtroom, please. You look like a wolf, which you may not be aware of, and it comes across as if you take this proceeding lightly."
"I do not." Rafe shook his head. "Trust me when I tell you that this proceeding is life-and-death to me."
She nodded. "See that you try to maintain a more serious composure in the courtroom."
"I will." He nodded in turn, his expression as earnest as he could make it. "And you're wrong, Julie. Just because I let you seduce me in a field doesn't mean I don't respect you."
She gasped. "I did not seduce you!"
He shrugged. "You're a powerful woman, Julie. Not only are you beautiful and smart, you're sexy as hell. I couldn't resist you." He shook his head regretfully. "Ever since then, I've wondered if holding you in my arms was a dream."
She glared at him. "You can be certain that I didn't seduce you. You--you.. " She seemed at a loss for words for once. "You seduced me/" she said in a whispered hiss. "This is what I'm talking about, Rafe. You Callahans always manage to twist things around!"
"Oh, Judge, it's every man's dream to be seduced by a gorgeous woman. Don't burst my bubble." Rafe smiled his most charming smile. "I wish I could seduce you, but I'm pretty sure you're impervious to men."
She blinked. "That didn't sound very nice."
"Maybe you're just impervious to me." He sat on her desk and swung a leg, considering his words. "That's probably it."
"I don't even know how that happened that night. But," Julie said, her voice low, "I'd appreciate you not bringing it up again, and particularly not in the courthouse."
"But was it good for you?" Rafe asked. "That's a worry that's kept me up at night."
Julie drew back. He gave her a forlorn look. "Good for me?" she repeated.
He nodded. "Did I make you feel good?"
She hesitated. "I guess so. I mean, considering it was you, I guess it felt as good as it could have."
He tried not to laugh. She was lying like a rug, and in her own judge chambers, just down the hall from where she made people take oaths to tell the truth. "Ah, Julie," he said, "there are nights when I wake up in a sweat thinking about how sweet you are."
She appeared confused. Probably no one had ever said that to her before. But he knew she was sweet. He took her hand and tugged her close to him. "Seduce me again, Julie."
"No," she said. "You're bad news, Rafe Callahan. My dad always says that, and it's true. You're really, really bad, and I should never have--"
He touched his lips to hers, stopping her words. "So why did you?"
"I don't know," she said, not pulling away from him. "I have no idea why I even let you talk to me, Rafe. I shouldn't have done it, though, and I can tell you it will never happen again."
"I know." Rafe framed her face with his hands. "And it makes me so damn sad I just don't know what to do." He kissed her gently, then with more thoroughness as he felt some of the stiffness go out of her. "We geeks never get the beautiful girls."
She blinked, pulling back. "Geeks?"
"Yeah. You know, those of us who think too much, when we should be men of action." He moved his hands down her shoulders, down her arms, and began kissing along her neck. God, she smelled good. He had a stiff one of epic proportions sitting in his jeans, and the call of the wild firing his blood. "I'm guilty of thinking too much, when I should be going after what I want."
He circled her waist, holding her to him, and kissed the hollow of her throat.
"Is this about the court case?"
He pulled back a moment. "Is what about the court case?"
He looked into her dark eyes, completely confused. His mind was totally fogged by Julie, her sweet perfume, her sexy mouth--and then he realized what she was asking. "God, no, love. I compartmentalize much better than that." He couldn't help the grin that split his face. "I may be a thinker, but I'm not that good, sweetie. This is all about trying to get under the robe of the most beautiful girl in
Julie seemed to consider his words. Rafe was pretty certain he should strike while the iron was hot. Clearly, she was of two minds about letting him kiss her, and the fact was, he wasn't about to let Julie out of his grasp. He remembered far too well how wonderful it had felt to be inside her. So he did what any normal, red-blooded man would do when faced with an uncertain female: he staked his flag on Venus. Pushing up Julie's robe and dress and everything else that was in his way, he slid off the desk and kissed her soft tummy. She gasped, and he ran his hands under her buttocks.
"What are these?" he asked, staring at the darling little pink straps holding up her stockings. Julie looked like a Victorian saloon girl, and he was pretty certain he was so hard right now diamonds couldn't chip him.
"Garters," Julie said. "And a thong."
"Pretty," Rafe said, and moved the thong so that he could kiss her the way he wanted to. Gently, he licked and kissed and tasted her, and when her knees were about to buckle, he pushed her into her desk chair where he could kiss her to his heart's content. He'd waited a long time for this moment, and when he could tell she was about to rip his hair out by the roots, he licked inside her, taking great pleasure in her gasping cries as she climaxed.
He wanted to just sit and look at her for a second, all disheveled in her black robe, but she shocked him by grabbing his belt. "Wait," he said, "just a minute, Julie. I don't want you to do anything you don't--"
She cut off his words with urgent kisses. Okay, he wanted her to do everything. She was pulling at him, trading places with him, and the next thing Rafe knew, he was sitting in the tall-backed black leather chair and Julie was sliding down him, clutching his shoulders as if she was afraid he was going to disappear.
What could he do but give her exactly what she wanted? "Hang on," he said, crushing her bare buttocks in his hands so that he could hold her tightly to him. He thought he was going to black out from the pleasure. Julie gasped against his neck, then tore off the judge's robe and threw it on the floor.
"Let me help you." Rafe undid the frilly white blouse she had on, tossing it away. That left a sweet ivory bra, but he was a pro with bras, and he had that hanging over a law book before Julie could realize that she now was seated on him wearing nothing but a soft peach skirt, pink garters and black heels. I'm living a dream, Rafe thought, taking in Julie's breasts, which were beautiful, shapely, peach-nippled. He wanted to grab them, but his hands were full of her soft buttocks and he had her right where he wanted her, so when she rose on a thrust and wrapped her arms around his neck, and her breasts engulfed his face, he was profoundly grateful. He sucked in a nipple before it could get away, and Julie stiffened on him, giving him a very pleasurable jolt where it counted.
"Oh, Rafe," she murmured. "Oh, God, don't stop."
He didn't. He suckled, and thrust, and touched, and invaded. And when Julie tightened up on him, giving a tiny muffled shriek of pleasure as she came, Rafe held on for just a moment longer, making sure he'd never forget this moment, before letting himself surrender to the magic of Julie.
He was pretty certain he'd rested his case, and that the jury had found him more than irresistible.