Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Teaser Tuesday: His Texas Heart



Texas Hearts Book Six
HIS TEXAS HEART

Time was running out for Cole Rivers.  He may not have been born in the United States, but Texas was the only place he'd ever called home.  He had just weeks to find the proof he needed, or risk being deported.  All he needed was a little help from the daughter of the local doctor who'd treated him years ago.  He didn't count on Dr. RaeAnne Daniels being so difficult to work with.  But despite his own troubles, and the distraction this beautiful woman became with each passing day, how could he leave her in her time of need?

RaeAnne Daniels never knew why it was so important for her father had set up his medical practice on the border of Mexico instead of working in a thriving Texas city like the one she practiced in.  But when her father died and left RaeAnne in charge of cleaning up his office, she found it hard to leave the border town and people she'd always resented growing up.  Cole Rivers had been her father's patient and he had problems of his own.  The break-ins at her father's clinic and the drugs being stolen were her problem.  But that didn't stop her from falling for the devastatingly handsome cowboy with a heart of gold...or stop him from showing her how wonderful true love could really be.

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Excerpt

“The office is closed. Unless it’s an emergency, you’ll have to come back in the morning.”

The woman calling out to him was clearly annoyed by the after-hours intrusion. And who could blame her? It was a hundred and fifteen degrees outside and probably just as hot inside. But a closed door had never stopped Cole Rivers before. The truth was, he’d lived a lifetime with doors slamming in his face.

Undaunted, Cole stepped into the office and took a quick look around. He had no memory of ever being here, although if today were his lucky day, he’d find evidence to prove it.

The sound of tools being hastily moved around in a box pulled his attention to the back room. He slowly walked down the narrow hall toward the source of the noise. That’s when he saw the woman.

“Air conditioning out?”

Startled, the woman turned around quickly and fell on her backside from the crouched position she’d been in.

Looking up at him through the sweaty hair that had fallen in front of her face, she said, “You wouldn’t happen to be an electrician, would you?”

“No.”

She heaved a sigh as her shoulders sagged. “I was all ready to barter services with you if you were. Sorry, the office is closed.”

“I heard you from the other room,” he said.

She pushed her hair away from her face and tilted an eyebrow. “And you decided to ignore me and come in anyway?”

“That’s right.”

She grunted her frustration. “Look, I’m really busy. If this isn’t an emergency, I really need you to come back tomorrow.”

“What’s wrong with the unit?”

She squinted her dark eyes, making them even harder for Cole to see them. “Excuse me?”

“Your air conditioner, what’s wrong with it?”

“If I knew that, I could fix it. But right now it’s all guesswork.”

“Mind if I have a look?”

“You said you’re not an electrician.”

“I’m a jack-of-all-trades, also known as a ranch hand. I’ve fixed everything from tractor motors to washing machines when I had to.”

“Really?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

She took a step aside. “Be my guest then.”

He looked down at the box on the floor and picked up a butter knife with a mangled tip, most likely the result of using it as a makeshift screwdriver.

“It helps when you actually have tools to work with.”

She cocked her head to one side. “You don’t say? It also helps when you have a medical practice that actually has patients who can pay their bills. But since this isn’t one of them, we make do with what we have.”

Cole felt his lips lift to a smile despite her sarcasm and the uncomfortable temperature inside the building. He liked her spirit. Up close, he decided he liked the woman’s full lips, too. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d noticed golden flex in a woman’s eyes, but she had them as well, and they were a sharp contrast to her eye’s dark brown color.

“Do you have a name to go with all that sass or do you just scare people off before they have a chance to find out?”

She gave him a bashful smile. “Rae, ah, Dr. RaeAnne Daniels.”

“I see. I’m going to need a little room here to pull this apart. Do you mind taking a few steps back, Rae?”

She moved out of his way. Cole brushed against her leg as he got into position in front of the air conditioner.

Using the butter knife, he unfastened the screws on the front of the air conditioner unit and put them in his pocket for safekeeping. “Good Lord, when was the last time you cleaned this filter?”

Her face turned crimson. “I’m guessing it’s been a long time. I don’t know how often my father did it but he passed away last year. I’ve been working at the Hawk Pass clinic a few months digging out, ur, through his files.”

He gave her a half grin. “Well, if this isn’t the problem, it’s certainly contributed to it. Do you have a vacuum?”

“Yes, in the closet. Let me get it.”

Cole took the few minutes it took for Rae to collect the vacuum to inspect the innards of the air conditioner. She came back with the small vacuum that was probably about as old as she was, and had seen better days.

“Have you cleaned out the bag in this thing?”

She cocked her head to one side again and gave him a sarcastic look. “This morning.” Then she made a face. “I was sucking up spider webs in the back room.”

“At least we know the vacuum works.”

Rae plugged in the vacuum and Cole went to work sucking out all the dust that was impeding airflow from the air conditioner. When he was done, he gave the inside a quick inspection to make sure no wires were pulled away. Then he popped the cover back on and turned the unit on.

A small amount of residue dust blew out through the vents as it turned on. Within a minute, it was pushing out cool air along with the dust.

After the dust cleared, Rae bent down and put her face in the stream of air and quickly pulled back.

“It smells awful.”

“I’d say it’s time to get a new unit.”

“Unfortunately, that’s not in the cards right now. This practice isn’t exactly making a profit.”

“It’s working now but I can’t guarantee it’s going to make it for very long.”

“I’ll squeeze as much time out of it as I can. Thank you so much for doing this. I was about ready to take a sledge hammer to it.”

She rushed to the door of the small room they were in and closed it. “This should help it cool down quickly. I might actually be able to get some work done.”

Turning to Cole, she said, “I can’t thank you enough.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Now, what was so urgent that you needed to see a doctor after hours?”

“I don’t actually need a doctor. I needed to talk to Dr. Raymond Daniels.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I was one of your father’s patients.”

She pulled back slightly, surprised by his admission. “Oh, it must have been a long time ago.”

“Yes, it was.”

It may have been a year ago that her father died, but the emotion was still very strong and showed in her expression when she talked of him.

Cole did his best to squash down his disappointment. It paled in comparison to her loss.

“I’m sorry to hear that. I’m sorry for your loss,” he said.

“Thank you. I don’t know if there is anything I can do to help you.”

“I was hoping he’d remember me. But since he’s passed away, I guess I’m out of luck.”


* * *

Terrific. She’d been down in this godforsaken border town for two months and she had yet to meet a single person who’d been born in this country. She looked at the man’s face. She’d been drawn to his dark eyes from the moment she’d looked at him. He was a handsome man, but in a rugged sort of way that she wasn’t used to. Unlike most of the men she’d met during med school and her residency, this man was an outdoor man. His skin was bronzed from the sun and his hands—yes, she’d noticed them, too—were calloused on the palms. He wasn’t afraid of hard work.

But that didn’t make him like all the other people she’d met since she’d arrived in Hawk Pass. Maybe he wasn’t from around here.

Rae crossed her arms over her chest and sighed, trying not to show the impatience she felt. Her practice these days consisted of patients who wanted to pay for their services through bartering. She didn’t need a goat, not that anyone had offered. But she did need someone to help her repair the damage neglect and age had caused to the building.

The only problem was she couldn’t trust any of the people who’d walked through that door to help her do it. Most of the people who’d come and gone wanted day work and a paycheck. The next day they were a no show on the job, leaving her with a mess bigger than the one she’d had when she’d arrived.

“I’m sorry for your troubles. I’m not sure if there’s anything I can do to help you.”

“On the contrary. I was told that your father, Dr. Daniels, was one of the few border doctors who kept meticulous records of all of his patients. I’m hoping I can get copies of my medical file, if it still exists.”

“Who told you something like that?”

“I’ve done my research. It doesn’t matter who told me.”

“What matters to me is that if someone is out there spreading rumors, I want to know who it is. If I’m to be of any use to anyone at this clinic, then I need to know what’s going on down here.”

“You mean your father never told you?”

Irritation bubbled up inside of her. Secrets and more secrets. How many times had she heard her mother ask her father about the time he spent here only to have him close himself off. Her father had lived a lifetime of secrets, and she and her mother paid the cost.

No, her father had never thought revealing his life here was necessary. He’d encouraged Rae to go into medicine. That is, when she saw him. And that wasn’t very often at all. Why her mother had stayed married to him all those years, Rae never understood.

But Rae knew the answer to that question all too well. Her parents had loved each other. She’d seen it with her own two eyes. When they were together, it had been like nothing Rae had ever seen with any other couple she’d met. It was something she longed for herself, but had yet to feel.

“My father ran this clinic his way. I do things a little different. When was it that you last saw my father?”

“It was a long time ago. I was still very young. I was counting on him still having the records though.”

Rae knew that if this man had actually been here any time during the thirty plus years her father had his practice, it meant those records were here somewhere. Her father never threw out anything, which is why the place was such a mess. Finding those files was just a matter of unearthing them from “the vault”.

“I’m sorry. I can’t help you. I have way too much work to do to get this office looking anything that resembles a real clinic and right now I’m all there is. I just can’t spare the time to look through the files unless they are from my father’s current clients.”

He considered her for a moment.

“It is really important that I have access to those records if they exist.”

“I understand. My father had a lot of patients. Thousands. The vault, uh, the storage locker has records from years ago. But my father’s only obligation was to keep records for his current patients. I’m sorry. There’s just too much work for me to do around here to go searching for ancient records.”

“What do you need to have done here?”

“Excuse me?”

“What do you need to do to get this place running?”

“Well, for starters I need to make repairs to the building. I need to find a contractor who can work for next to nothing and work miracles with the materials I have and then show up every day to work instead of disappearing on me after a day’s work. I need to log what is here and still in working order and then order new supplies, that is, if I can afford them. The windows in the back of the exam rooms need to be glazed because the office was broken into. Oh, and I have to find some money somewhere to get an alarm system put in so the clinic doesn’t get broken into again. And that’s just for starters. So you see—”

“Done.”

She blinked. “What?”

“I can make a list of the repairs that need to be made to the building and start working on them tomorrow. If you already have the glass for the windows, I can glaze them. I don’t know anything about alarm systems but I’m sure we can find someone within a twenty mile radius of Hawk Pass who knows a thing or two about them, or where to get someone who can install one.”

She shook her head as disbelief filled her. “Why are you doing this?”

“I need that file. Sooner rather than later would be best.”

He spoke directly and soberly.

“How soon?”

“Fifteen days.”

“So no rush then?”

He smiled then, although she was sure he found no amusement in his situation.

“I’m good with a hammer. I’ve done ranch work for years. And I’m the best price in town.”

She shrugged with a smile. “And what’s that?”

“Can’t get any better than free.”

Rae took a slow look around the office. It was a mess. She’d been here two months and although it looked far better on the inside than it had been when she’d arrived, the exterior was still a disaster. She needed to step up her game and get the clinic open again. She needed patients who could pay and make this a thriving practice.

On his deathbed, her father had begged Rae to give one year to the clinic, sort out what she could, and then see about getting another doctor in to replace her when the year was up. Filled with despair over losing her father, she’d made a promise to him to commit to a year. And each day of the two months she’d been here, she’d wondered why he gave up life with his family for this.

“I guess you can start by telling me your name.”

Rae was rewarded with a wide smile that hinted of the playfulness of a young boy. But this was no boy. This man with dark eyes and rich brown hair that made a woman’s fingers itch to comb through it was probably about her age. His shoulders stretched the fabric of his shirt tight against a wall of muscles on his chest. It annoyed her that she’d noticed at all.

Dark eyes. Warm eyes.

“I’m Cole Rivers.” He held out his hand and waited for her to slip her hand against his palm. The simple act of flesh on flesh made her head dizzy. As a doctor, she touched strangers all day long. But this was…different.

“Pleased to meet you, Cole Rivers.”



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Friday, November 17, 2017

Something fun and exciting!

https://www.theromancereviews.com/treasure.php

I’ve teamed up with 25 bestselling Contemporary Romance authors to give away a huge collection of novels plus a total of $100 Amazon Gift Cards to three lucky winners!

You can win my novel HER DAKOTA MAN plus books from authors like Rachel Brimble and Susan Carlisle.

Enter the giveaway by clicking here


Contest ends November 25, 2017

Good luck, everyone!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

New Release: COLD HARBOR!

Heroes of Providence, Book Six
 

FBI Agent, Charlotte "Charley" Tate has loved only one man in her life.  The one man she betrayed, Tyler Jacobsen.  Tyler had given up a career he loved as a Providence police detective after realizing how easily a beautiful face and sweet smile had led him astray. Now Charley is back in his life as they fight to undo the organized crime corruption that has infiltrated the city he loves by a Colombian drug lord.  Can he work along side a woman he still loves without risking his life...and his heart?





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Teaser Tuesday: Leaving Liberty



Texas Hearts Book Five
LEAVING LIBERTY

There's been a storm brewing in Liberty Calvert's life.  But she didn't know just how strong it would be until Texas Ranger, Jackson Gentry, came to Liberty, Texas.  Her already fragile life will be changed forever if he learns the truth.  Her head tells her that the best thing for all of them is for Jackson to leave Liberty as soon as his investigation wraps up.  But her heart is telling her this is the one cowboy she wants to spend the rest of her life loving.

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Excerpt



Today was just one more day in a long string of stormy days Liberty Calvert wanted to erase from her memory.  As she sat in the passenger seat of her father’s truck, wiggling her toes in shoes that cramped her feet, she realized any relief she craved was futile.  Her father was dead.  And the expression on the face of the Texas Ranger leaning against his truck in her driveway as they pulled up to the house let her know he wanted to find out why.

She turned to the man driving the pickup truck.  “They didn’t waste any time, did they,” she said with a slight groan.

“Do you really want them to?”  Cole Rivers was more than a ranch hand on the Bucking Hills Ranch.  He’d become family, even if it weren’t legal.

Liberty considered Cole’s words a second.  “I wish they never showed up here at all.  The least this ranger could have done was wait until my dad’s memorial service was over before charging in here with questions.  It would have given us time to …”

“Figure things out?”  Cole shook his head.  “The time for that is long past.  You know all about facing a storm head on, Libby.  This is just one more storm.”

“What I wouldn’t give for some pleasant weather for a little while.”

Cole chuckled, reaching across the seat and squeezing her hand before looking at the man standing in the driveway.  “He’s not going away.”

She stared at Cole for a long minute, weighing the situation back and forth until she made her decision.

“If you want, Lib, I’ll get out of the car first.  Maybe he just wants to talk to me.”

Tears that had eluded her the past few days suddenly weighed heavy in her eyes.  She was Texas stock right down to the bone, and there was no way she was going to let this intruder, even if he was a Texas lawman, get the best of her or take away more than she’d already lost.

“Thanks.  But I can hold my own.”

Cole shrugged.  “I just thought it might be easier.”

The truck pulled to a stop.  Libby waited long enough for the dust from the gravel drive to blow forward and then settle around the Texas Ranger before she stepped out.

The man tilted his tan hat in greeting as she slammed the truck door.  “Good afternoon, ma’am.”

Libby remained silent.  She was already wearing shoes that were cramping her toes and a dress that … well, the last time she’d worn a dress was at her cousin’s wedding.  That was six years ago.  She was going to have to await changing into her comfortable jeans and worn-in boots until she dealt with the man.

Work.  That’s what she needed.  Not questions or probing.  Work kept her grounded.  Work made her forget.  Well …

Despite saying she’d take care of it, Cole stepped out of the car first.  Libby waited.  The tall Texas Ranger who’d come to investigate her father’s death wasn’t a stranger.  She’d seen him a few days after her father’s limp body was found up in the back pasture.  Jackson Gentry was his name.  He was an authentic navy hero, if she were to believe some of the whisperings about him in town, and now he worked as a lawman in Texas.

As she climbed out of the car, she finally had herself a good look at the man. Now that she was standing, she could see just how tall Jackson Gentry really was.  The slight creases along his eyes told her he was a good eight to ten years older than her.  His nose wasn’t exactly straight as if he’d had it broken at least once.  But it didn’t take away from the rugged features that made him look appealing.

He tipped his tan cowboy hat at her once again.  “Good afternoon ma’am.”

Libby laughed bitterly.  “What’s so good about it?”

He gave one long look at the way she was dressed and his expression fell to the ground, his skin as gray as a dry riverbed.

“I … I thought the funeral for your father was weeks ago.”

“It was,” Cole said.  “Today was private, to spread Buck’s ashes.  Just for family.”

Jackson Gentry’s solemn eyes looked down for a brief moment.  “I’m sorry for your loss, Miss Calvert.  If I could, I would have picked a better time to call on you.”

Cole turned toward Libby, taking her by the arm as they started to walk toward the house, passing the Texas Ranger without answering.

“Unfortunately,” Jackson continued, stopping them.  “This is too important for me to wait any longer.  There are some loose ends in your father’s death, and I need to complete my report, ma’am.”

Libby stopped and turned toward Jackson, wishing like hell she could keep the unshed tears that had eluded her all day from flowing now.  She sniffed back a sob.

“If you must, then at least let me get changed out of this dress.”

“It’s a nice dress.  I’m sure you get lots of compliments when you wear it.”

She frowned.  “I wouldn’t know.  Last time I wore it was to my mother’s funeral.  No one was really in the complimenting mood that day.”

He didn’t reply. Instead, he nodded.

“I’ll just be a minute.  Make yourself comfortable in the living room.”

* * *

Jackson followed Libby into the house.  The man she’d been with, Cole Rivers, had disappeared somewhere, and he wanted to know why.  Talk in town was that the ranch hand was quite protective of Buck Calvert’s only daughter.  He couldn’t say he blamed him.  Liberty Calvert was as pretty as a Texas flower.

“It’s cooler in here,” Libby said, extending her hand to invite him into the living room.

Cathedral ceilings planked with natural wood soared above him.  In the center of the room was a seating area in front of a stone fireplace that was big enough to fit him and the leather chair he sat down in.

“Thank you,” he said.  But Libby had already disappeared out of the room.

With nothing better to do than twirl his cowboy hat in his hand, Jackson glanced at his surroundings and saw nothing of the girl he’d met a few short minutes ago.  The great room was furnished with a man in mind, most likely decorated for the very man whose death he’d been sent here to investigate.  Above the mantel hung a painted portrait of who Jackson presumed was Buckland Calvert.  He stared at the picture, at the stern face and stiff posture, and then looked at the chair the man was seated in.  It was identical to the one he was sitting in.  It was almost as if Buck was scolding him from the grave for intruding on his daughter while she was grieving.

“You couldn’t have picked a better time?” he said quietly.

“What was that?”

Jackson turned to find Libby standing at the doorway to the living room.  She had changed out of her black dress and jacket and was now wearing a fresh T-shirt and jeans.  Her feet were bare as she walked into the room and plopped down on the sofa opposite him.  In her hands she had a pair of clean argyle socks and a pair of cowboy boots.  She proceeded to put them on as if he wasn’t even sitting there.  Jackson wondered how many times in her life Libby had repeated this same action sitting in front of her daddy’s portrait.

“Nice socks,” he said.

“First the dress?  Now the socks?  You’re really stretching for conversation, Ranger.”

“You have to admit the socks stand out.”

“Hmm, but not the woman wearing them?”

He’d walked into that … or she’d led him there.  Either way, he couldn’t really say exactly what type of impression the woman had made on him in the short time since they’d met.  Liberty Calvert was not exactly a woman a man wouldn’t notice.  Unlike some women who always checked to see if a man was favoring them, Libby went about her business as if she simply didn’t care.

There was something intriguing about that and made Jackson all the more interested in learning more.  But now wasn’t the time to find out the answers to all those questions about Libby that had nagged at him since he’d first laid eyes on her.  And it wasn’t the right time to flirt with a woman whose eyes were as blue as the Texas sky.  He was here on official business.

Her lips lifted on one side, giving him a half grin that quickly disappeared.  “They were a gag gift from my friend Hannah.  But I like to wear them, especially now that she’s serving overseas.  Makes me think of her.”

“Your friend is in the military?”

“Yes.  I’m hoping she’ll be home soon.”  She slipped her foot into her cowboy boot and dropped it to the floor with a thud.  “I dread telling her about my father.  It’ll devastate her.  She doesn’t need that now.”

“Is she in a dangerous position?”

“She’s in Afghanistan, and she’s in the army.  That’s dangerous enough for my liking.  But she won’t tell me where she is.  Or can’t tell me.  I’m not really sure which.  I wish she were here now.  So, what questions do you have about my father’s death that are so important it couldn’t wait?”

Jackson’s stomach dropped.  He hated this part of his job.  “I think your father’s death wasn’t an accident.”

Her shoulders slumped.  “Of course it was an accident.”

“Did you know that your father’s ranch was in trouble?”

“It’s my ranch now.  And no, the ranch isn’t in trouble.  It won’t be either.  Not if there’s a single breath left in me.”

“It’s mortgaged pretty high.  The note is recent.  Yet your father’s bank account doesn’t seem to have much in it to account for the money he took out.  Do you know why that is?  Or didn’t your father trouble you with ranch business?”

Libby shifted uncomfortably in her seat, yet kept her eyes steady on him.

“This ranch is neither a trouble to me or in trouble, Ranger.  I’d be careful where you take this.”

He twirled his cowboy hat in his hand slowly before he spoke.  “You can call me Jackson.”

“I’d rather keep this professional, Ranger.  Quite frankly, after the investigation last week, I thought you’d be only too happy to finish your paperwork and rid yourself of Liberty, Texas.  Nothing ever happens here.  It’s just a small Texas town where one day looks like the last.  It’s not even a dot on any of the Texas maps.”

“Sounds like you’re eager to get rid of me.”

“Eager?  Don’t flatter yourself.  I simply want to move on and get back to work.  As you can imagine, my father’s death was a devastating blow, especially so soon after my brother’s death.”

“And your mother?”

Her eyes widened and immediately glistened with unshed tears.  “My mom,” she said, softly.  “She died ten years ago.  It’s just me here now, and I have a lot of work to do to keep this place up on my own.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.  You have no other relations in town?”

“No.  My father’s family came from Mexico.  Most are still there.”

“And your mother’s family?”

“What does all this have to do with the investigation?”

He looked at her sincerely.  “Nothing.  I just wondered …  It’s tough being alone at a time like this.”

“I’m not alone.  Cole is here.”

He pulled out his notepad and started flipping through it.  “That’s right.  That would be Cole Rivers.”

“You know it is.  You just saw him outside.”

“Yes.  I knew he worked here as a ranch hand.  He lives here?”

“Yes.  We have a small bunkhouse on the other side of the barn.  He stays there.”

“He’s not originally from Liberty, is he?”

“I imagine any questions you have about Cole are best directed to him.”

“You mean you don’t know?”

“I don’t understand why this line of questioning is so urgent for me to answer today of all days.”

“I didn’t know about the private memorial for your father.  I’m sorry.”

Libby stood up and smoothed down the denim of her jeans with both hands.

“No, you’re not.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“You heard me.  You’re only sorry that you can’t get the information you want from me.  And you’re not going to.”

“Why is that?”

“Because I don’t have any.  You see, the way I see it is you’re not really here to uncover evidence about the accident that killed my father.  You’re here fishing for information.  Every few years someone from the law comes to Liberty fishing for something.  I haven’t a clue what that is, and I don’t really care.  I do know that I don’t have the time to wonder about it.  In case you haven’t noticed, there is one less person on this ranch to do the work.  So unless you have some direct questions to ask me about what I personally know about my father’s accident, I’d say we’re done.”

Jackson looked up at Libby as she propped her fists on her slender hips and glared down at him as he sat in her father’s chair.  And suddenly Jackson knew who she’d gotten that stern and stubborn glare from.  He wondered, too, if Libby Calvert would have ever had that much fire talking to her ol’ man.

Jackson stood up slowly.  As he did, Libby kept her eyes fixed on his, and it became completely apparent how much taller he was than her.  But she didn’t shrink back as he towered over her, and for that he couldn’t help but feel a little bit of admiration, even though the visit here was a bust.  She was a pistol, for sure.

“I don’t believe your father’s death was an accident.”

She sighed.  “What are you implying?”

“Were you good in math?”

“Math?”

“Yes.  One plus one equals two?”

She folded her arms across her chest, clearly irritated.  “You’ve come here to give me a math lesson?”

“No.  But I can see this is a bad time for us to talk.”

She chuckled without any humor.  “You think?”

He’d overstayed his welcome.  If he’d ever really been welcome at all.  Jackson propped his hat on his head and nodded to her.  He’d give her a few days to work through her feelings and then he’d be back.  There were enough people in town he still needed to talk to before he could wrap up this investigation and be on his way out of Liberty.

“I’ll just see myself out,” he said.  Jackson started to walk toward the foyer, but then turned around.  “I’m not leaving Liberty.  One way or another, I will get the answers I need for my investigation.”

Liberty Calvert lifted her chin with determination and fire.  “I would expect nothing less.”

* * *

Only when Libby heard the front door shut completely did she allow herself to breathe again.  She slumped down into her father’s chair, leaning her head back and smelling the leather fabric that she’d come to recognize as his scent.  But her thoughts were not on her father.  The chair was still warm where Jackson Gentry had made an imprint.  The strong features of his face consumed her mind as she closed her eyes and tried to steady her rampant heartbeat.

“Are you okay?”  Libby opened her eyes to find Cole standing in the doorway.  He was still dressed in the clothes he’d worn to the memorial service where they’d spread her father’s ashes.

“Don’t look so worried.”

“It’s kind of hard not to given all you’ve been through.”

“I’m fine.”

“It’s been a trying day for you.  This visit from the ranger didn’t help.”

Libby heaved a quick sigh.  “I have a feeling this is only the beginning.  He’s asking questions about you, Cole, and that can only mean trouble.”

“For who?  Me or you?”

Libby thought about it for a minute while she rubbed the dull ache at her temple gently.  What started out as a small, throbbing pain was now shaping up to be a full-blown headache.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Cole gave her a half smile. “Okay, fine.  Why don’t you take a nap?  You look wiped out.”

She didn’t need a nap, especially when she knew sleep was the last thing she’d get.  Left alone with her thoughts, she’d think and she didn’t want to think about much of anything lately.

Especially not Ranger Jackson Gentry.

She’d spent more than just these past few minutes thinking about the man.  How could she not?  She’d seen him in town over the last couple of weeks.  Any woman with a pulse would stop dead in her tracks the moment she laid eyes on his baby blues.  Libby was no different.  She may be damaged goods, but she wasn’t dead inside, and she still had stirrings that made her notice a handsome cowboy.

“Lib?”  Cole was staring at her.

“He’s coming back.”

Cole simply nodded and dug his hands in the pockets of his coat.  “Then I suppose I should get out of this suit so I can tend to the animals.  Tomorrow, we should look into getting you some help around here.”

“Why would I need anyone else around here?  We’ve been doing just fine on our own.”

“Lib?”  She heard the same warning in his voice that he’d given her for the past few weeks.  “We talked about this.  And now the ranger is snooping around, wanting to dig deeper.”

“Don’t worry.  He’ll be leaving soon.”

“But what if he doesn’t?”

“Tomorrow,” she said, shaking her head.  She didn’t want to deal with any more today.

She heard the front door close as Cole walked out of the house.  And then she was truly alone in her father’s house for the first time in her life.

If Jackson Gentry got too close to the truth, she’d be alone on this ranch as well.  All the more reason to get him to leave Liberty as soon as possible.  This home had dealt with tragedy before.  Her family had weathered many storms through the years.  She was all that was left.  Just her and this ranch.  But if Libby was anything, she was a survivor.  And she would survive long after Jackson Gentry left Liberty.


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