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Copyright © 2011 by Marteeka Karland All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may

Copyright © 2011 by Marteeka Karland

All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or shared in any form, including but not limited to: printing, photocopying, faxing, recording, electronic transmission, or by any information storage or retrieval system without prior written permission from the authors or holders of the copyright.

This book is a work of fiction. References may be made to locations and historical events; however, names, characters, places and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination and/or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), businesses, events or locales is either used fictitiously or coincidental. All trademarks, service marks, registered trademarks, and registered service marks are the property of their respective owners and are used herein for identification purposes only.

Published by Beautiful Trouble Publishing, LLC PO Box 61 Colfax, NC 27235 www.beautifultroublepublishing.com

Cover Art: Marteeka Karland http://www.marteekakarland.com/ Editor: Cindy Davis, http://www.fiction-doctor.com/ Proofreader: Novellette Whyte http://authorgurunovellette.blogspot.com/ Proofreader #2: Legacy Editing http://legacyediting.com/ Formatter: Jim & Zetta, http://www.jimandzetta.com/ E-book Conversion: Jim & Zetta, http://www.jimandzetta.com/ ISBN: (ebook) 978-1-61788-245-6; (print) 978-1-61788-249-4

Note about eBooks

eBooks are NOT transferable. Re-selling, sharing or giving away eBooks is a copyright infringement. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the author or Beautiful Trouble Publishing.

CAVEAT

This work of erotica contains adult language and sexually explicit scenes, which are smoking hot. This book is intended only for adults, as it is defined by the laws of the country in which the purchase is made. Keep this book out of the hands of under-aged readers.

Chapter One

Julie Ann stared at the vast expanse of pasture land in her valley. The land here in Colorado had been bought by her father and passed down to her and her brother. He’d worked hard and the land and house had been the first anyone in his family had owned. There was more than a small sense of pride in the place. She reflected on her happy childhood as she attached the trailer loaded with hay to the big four by four. Just as she hooked up the taillights for travel, she heard the noise of an approaching vehicle. Julie Ann groaned. She’d bet that load of hay she knew who the visitor was. Sure enough, the white Escalade stopped a few feet from her beat up, but sturdy, Ford. He slid from the vehicle and swaggered to her, placing one foot on the trailer rail and leaning over to rest his arms on his bent knee. “Mornin’, Julie Ann.” His smile was just a bit too wolfish to her. He looked like he’d been let into the henhouse after a good long winter fast. “What do you want, James? I’ve got chores to finish.” It wasn’t a lie. There were plenty of things she needed to do, if not as much as there were before she’d sold nearly everything to make the interest payment on the loans six months ago. “Just came to make sure everything was alright. And to remind you the interest payment is due along with a ten percent principle payment.” Julie Ann scowled. “I’ve still got two days, James. You’ll get your money.” She had no idea how, but she wasn’t about to

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show weakness in front of James. If the man smelled blood in the water, he’d come down on her hard and fast. He pushed up the brim of his Stetson and managed to look genuinely concerned. Julie Ann doubted it would be a good idea to clue him in on how ridiculous he looked in the thing. “You know, my offer of marriage still stands. You can marry me and I’ll pay off the ranch as my wedding gift to you. I’ll also square Brady’s other, less savory loans.” Julie Ann tried to hide her scowl, but she doubted she pulled it off, especially when James’s jaw twitched in his own attempt to hide a smile. “I told you already. I won’t sell myself to keep this ranch. Besides, I seriously doubt you could handle me.” She gave him her most contemptuous sneer. He actually took a step backward under the force of her gaze. “As I said, you’ll have your money in two days and not a second sooner. Now leave, before I call the cops.” James managed a semblance of a smile. “Well, let me know if you need anything. I’ll be in touch.” James was a handsome enough man, but every time she looked at him, a cold shiver ran the length of her spine. The man gave her the creeps. “I’m sure you will,” Julie Ann muttered under her breath. Could this day get any worse? She’d been to half a dozen banks in Colorado Springs and even Denver in the past week. No one was willing to lend her the kind of money needed to pay off James. Now, there were two days left to find a miracle and it wasn’t looking hopeful. She was in danger of losing it all. She’d sold every horse, pig, chicken, and field mouse she could and still she was in danger of foreclosure. The only thing

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she had left was about a third of the cattle. Her father had always been proud to be a cattle rancher. He’d loved the hard work. Julie Ann enjoyed it too. The ranch had always given her a sense of freedom nothing else ever had. Because of that, she’d been loath to sell the herd until she absolutely had to and only when she could get top dollar for them. She’d been lucky enough to sell everything else to family friends who would gladly sell most of it back to her should she manage to pull a rabbit out of her hat. Even though Brady was really brilliant, she wished her brother hadn’t been such a moronic ass of a man. Brady had squandered every dime in his trust fund and had gone through enough of hers that the remainder was of little consequence compared to the tremendous debts. He’d also managed to get into her savings and gone halfway through it before she discovered what he was doing. Even the bank seemed hard pressed to tell her how it had happened. Hell, they weren't convinced she hadn't been a party to it, and that hurt almost as much as her own brother betraying her. Brady had always been highly intelligent and computer savvy. It was just a shame he hadn’t used his talents to help himself rather than ripping her off. Now, it was too late. He’d also mortgaged the ranch heavily, all to feed his gambling addiction and that, she might never forgive him for. As usual, Julie Ann was left to clean up the mess. This time, however, she wasn’t certain she could pull it off. As one of the best graphic designers in the country, she made good money, but nothing like the amount needed to bail them out. She was sure she had yet to uncover the full extent of Brady’s debauchery, but all she cared about at the moment was tallying

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up the loans against the ranch. So far, she figured he was in for well over two million. And that was on the land only. That didn’t count the houses or equipment. Hell, she was lucky he hadn’t borrowed against the livestock. With a heavy heart, Julie Ann caressed the rail of the front porch. This was their home. How could he have done this? James happened to own the bank that held most of the loans Brady had taken out. The wily banker had been trying to get his hands on their land for years without success, even to the point of courting Julie Ann before he realized it was a losing battle.

She deserved to lose the ranch. Julie Ann couldn’t even keep her mind on the things around her, let alone run the whole thing by herself. She’d hired three field hands to take care of the hay and mend the fences to keep the cattle from wandering off to neighboring spreads. The men had done fabulous work, but mostly kept to themselves, only coming to her on payday or if they needed her okay to buy material that wasn’t readily available. To the best of her knowledge, all three men were honest to a fault, and very hard working. Julie Ann hadn’t been fooled, though. They weren’t some random ranch hands sent by her father’s friend, Jonas. These men were wealthy in their own right, but unknown in Westcliff, Colorado or the surrounding areas. They were powerful men. Men who had no need of her money or the hard labor they seemed to dive into with gusto. She just wasn’t certain exactly what they wanted at this point, and that concerned her. “Miss Julie Ann?”

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She jumped and swung around. Christ! “I’m so sorry, Wyatt,” she stammered, “I was off in a dream world. You startled me.” The brawny cowboy grinned briefly, the small smile lighting up his weathered but handsome face that was partially concealed by the Stetson. Funny how the same style hat looked so goofy on James, yet only added to the rugged good looks of this man. “Not a problem. We were getting ready to head home for the evening and wanted to see if you needed us to pick up anything in town for you before we came out tomorrow.” Julie Ann couldn’t help the smile. Wyatt was thoughtful like that. Once a week, he would offer, usually on Thursday so she’d have supplies for the weekend. Why couldn’t she find a man like Wyatt for herself? “Thanks,” she said, meaning it. “I’m ashamed to admit I made a list for you. I really didn’t want to go back into The Springs before Saturday, and I do need a few small items that won’t be able to wait.” Wyatt nodded in the general direction of James’s departing truck. “He giving you trouble?” It was said innocently enough, almost like small talk, but something in Wyatt’s eyes told her differently. “No. He’s just reminding me I have business with him Saturday.” She tried to sound as nonchalant as he had, but she wasn’t sure she’d pulled it off. “The loan your brother took out on the place.” It didn’t really surprise Julie Ann that he knew. It wasn’t a secret, after all. But it still irked her that the hired help knew her personal business.

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Wyatt put his hands up in a defensive gesture. Her expression must have been more transparent than she’d thought. “I’ve not been nosing around in your business, I swear. James has been bragging to his inner circle how he is finally getting this place. He seems to think he’s getting you too, though I had my doubts about that from the moment I met you. You’re too classy a lady for the likes of him.” Julie Ann started to reply, but his words wrapped themselves around her heart and squeezed. All her life, she’d been called “tomboy, she-male, frigid, even bitch, or domme.” Never “classy.” Until that moment, Julie Ann had never realized how much those names had hurt. “I appreciate you saying that,” she managed. Julie Ann wasn’t the emotional type, taking what life dealt without fussing about it and playing her hand as best she could. She didn’t expect gratitude or sympathy, and never had. “I don’t say things I don’t mean.” His piercing blue eyes met hers and seemed to bore straight through her soul. In that moment, she felt more vulnerable than she ever had in her entire life. With slow, deliberate movements, Wyatt approached her. He had several inches in height on her and she had to tilt her head to meet his gaze. For the first time, she was struck by how really large the man was. Broad shoulders blocked out the setting sun and seemed to strain the mud-streaked t-shirt he wore. Faded jeans hugged his lean hips and muscled thighs like a jealous lover, accenting his masculine beauty. She didn’t dare linger on those jeans for fear of embarrassing herself. He had a body honed in hard labor, not the gym. A man’s body. It had been a while since she’d had the attentions of a man. Letting

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Wyatt know that, would be as bad as letting James know it. Worse, she had the feeling Wyatt would act on that knowledge where James would be afraid she’d do something really nasty to his privates, which she would. For several moments, they simply stared each other down. Her breath caught. Julie Ann could no more look away from him than she could walk away from the ranch without a fight. She wanted to lean against him, to rely on his strength, but knew better. One lesson she’d learned the hard way was that the only man a girl could count on was her daddy. Wyatt and his buddies might be an invaluable asset to her on the ranch, but she knew better than to hope any of them was her Prince Charming in a Stetson, charging to her rescue on his white steed. He was a mana very strong, handsome man, but nothing else. She was his boss. He her ranch hand, nothing more.

Unfortunately, the sexual attraction between them seemed to fairly crackle with life whenever they were close. She wanted him. Wanted him like she’d never wanted any other man and she was pretty sure he wanted her right back. “The list?” he prompted her gently when she continued to meet his stare. Immediately, heat suffused her face. Good Lord, she was pathetic! Shaking herself out of the pool of self-pity she was wallowing in, Julie Ann gave herself a mental slap. She’d been through hard times before. It was time to cowgirl up and do this, just as she’d always done. If she could find a buyer for the remainder of the cattle, she could make the necessary payment to hold off James for another six months. Then she’d have some

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breathing room to figure out what to do next. Given enough time, she could save the place. “Oh, right. I’ll be right back.” Before he could say another wordor give her one of those small smiles so filled with male amusementshe fled into the house to get her supply list and compose herself.

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Chapter Two

Wyatt knew the trouble Julie Ann was in. They all did. He and his buddies, John, Dominic, and Matthew had been informed by her father’s best friend Jonas that she needed workers to help out. Jonas originally approached the four of them for a recommendation as they had their own ranch and many workers they were more than willing to loan out. When Jonas had told them of her brother accessing the trust funds and the huge mortgage he’d taken out on the land, Wyatt “volunteered” all four of them to help out. As far as he knew, the bank’s lawyers were still trying to work out how Brady had hacked their system. However it had happened, they wouldn't return the money until they knew what happened and it left Julie Ann in a bad position. He and his friends enjoyed the time they spent together working on her ranch. It reminded them where they'd come from and how they'd gotten where they were today. None of them needed the money she was paying them and Wyatt put back every cent into an account in her name. He’d heard of Julie Ann's fiery spirit, actually seen her in action a time or two when the occasional drunken cowboy tried to manhandle her at the local bar. There was something about the spunky, dark-skinned beauty that took his breath. The thought of anyone else aiding her just didn’t sit well with himmainly because a couple of his own men had been said drunken cowboys. The little spitfire was the equivalent of Westcliff, Colorado’s most eligible bachelorette. He and his partners,

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being newcomers, none of them had built a reputation in Westcliff, but in Wild Creak, Texas they’d been a force to be reckoned with. They’d purposefully kept their business in Westcliff and Colorado Springs on the down low, not wanting to scare off the local ranchers before they’d made sound business relationships. He and his buddies had helped her fix up the place. Watched the last few weeks as Julie Ann had sold two thirds of the cattle, to either Jonas or one of Jonas’s friends. Not once had he seen her crack. The only sign that any of the selling of animals or equipment bothered her was the clenching and unclenching of her fists at her sides. There was a strength she possessed that went to the bone. Steel ran in her veins, giving her the ability to do what needed to be done to hang on to her family’s legacy with both hands. She wasn’t giving up without a fight, and neither was he. This woman called to him on more than a physical level, though Lord knew that particular pull was strong. Something deep inside him made him want to scoop her up and hold her to him so nothing could harm her. He also knew she’d never allow it and that, as much as anything, was a huge aphrodisiac. “Just a few things,” she said, handing him a slip of paper. “I’ve already called Joe and he should have everything ready for you. Payment is taken care of, but if there are any problems, just call.” Wyatt nodded in acknowledgement. “Are there any perishable items? I’d planned on being out here at the crack of dawn tomorrow. Joe won’t be open when we pass through.” Julie Ann bit her lower lip, a nervous tell. “A couple of things. Just pick up the rest of it. I can live without milk and

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butter until after I take care of business Saturday.” She smiled. “I really appreciate all the extra trouble you guys go to for me. You’ve been a lifesaver.” Wyatt couldn’t help the silly grin that sprang to his lips at her words. “No trouble at all, Miss Julie Ann. Glad to help.” Wyatt sized her up. She actually looked vulnerable. It was a new look for her and one he was certain she wouldn’t appreciate him admiring. “Is everything okay?” He knew she wouldn’t open up to him, but still, he had to ask. Immediately, she stiffened, any vulnerability gone in an instant. “Of course,” she smiled, or tried to. The lines of worry and strain seemed more etched into her face the closer she got to the deadline with the bank. Wyatt couldn’t blame her. She was on the verge of losing not only her home but her heritage. “I’ll see you tomorrow then.” As Wyatt turned to leave, that fleeting vulnerability was burned forever in his mind. “If you need anything, you know how to get hold of me, right?” He always asked that question before he left for the day. She blinked. “I…yeah.” Wyatt almost smiled. The woman was in desperate need of some emotional pampering. “Thanks, but I’ll be fine.” She smiled as she shrugged. “I’ve been looking after myself for a long time.” Her response was typical, but almost hesitant this time. Wyatt wasn’t a man to take advantage of a woman, but Julie Ann needed a man. No. Not just any man. Him. She needed him and he was damned determined to make her see it. “Maybe that needs to change.” Wyatt wasn’t sure why he said it, but having done so, he wasn’t about to take it back. He met her shocked stare unflinchingly. She obviously had no idea how to deal with him, which gave Wyatt the advantage. He

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touched the brim of his hat. “Good evening, then. I’ll see you tomorrow.” As he headed back to Colorado Springs, Wyatt thought of Julie Ann. How could such a force of will come in so small a package? It was no secret James Cameron wanted her ranch— and her. What man wouldn’t? The land was perfect for cattle, and she had some of the best Angus in the area. James wanted her ranch for the money, but he wanted Julie Ann as an arm ornament for social functions. Julie Ann might be many things, but she would never settle for being a trophy wife and would dismember anyone who suggested she should. Christ! Wyatt got hard just thinking about that temper of hers. Wyatt knew what it was like to fight and scrap for any and everything a person had. He and his buddies were as close as brothers for a reason. Growing up in an orphanage had brought them closer than most siblings. When they’d turned eighteen, they left, making successful lives for themselves. It had taken tons of hard work, scrimping and saving, but they’d finally managed to buy a small spread near Wild Creak, Texas. As the years went on, they added to the ranch in land, equipment, and livestock until they had one of the largest ranches in the area. They’d worked the land with cattle until the combination of intelligence, shrewd business practices, and force of will had made them all very wealthy. Since then, Wyatt had seen more than his share of women come and go, all of them with the same thing in common: they wanted his money. In Julie Ann, he’d finally found a woman he wanted to give money to and she didn’t want it. She wanted to get everything the old fashioned way. Julie Ann wanted to work for it. While Wyatt admired that, it also

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complicated matters enough to give him a headache. If he made a move on her, no matter how sincere and genuine, she was likely to misinterpret it as an attempt to buy her affections, or, worse, make her feel like a prostitute. He adjusted his grip on the steering wheel. Christ, this was complicated! Especially with James Cameron sniffing around her. Everyone knew James was a slimy son of a bitch, but other than being a creep with poor business ethics, Wyatt didn’t have any reason to warn him off Julie Ann. Not yet anyway. Wyatt had never had anything he hadn’t shared with his brothers. Julie Ann he wanted for himself. No other woman had come close to affecting him the way she did and he hadn’t even touched her. Every time he saw her, he lost himself in her beauty. But it wasn’t the perfection of her frame or the wild hair that made her look like she’d just been thoroughly loved. It wasn’t the sexy sway of her hips when she walked, though he’d fantasized about that particular portion of her anatomy many times. Julie Ann had sass. Wyatt loved her inner strength. She was the strongest woman he’d ever met, yet he sensed there was a softer side to her.

She was special. He just wasn’t sure she was ready to take him on. He was a demanding lover and with her, he’d demand her heart as well as her body. He was adjusting himself to keep the seat belt from cutting into his dick when his cell trilled. “Wyatt Davis,” he answered. “I— Hello, Wyatt.” It was a damned good thing his truck offered a hands free option for his cell or he’d have dropped the phone.

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“Julie Ann? Is everything all right?” Funny his first

thought was that something was wrong. Julie Ann would never ask him for help unless it was life and death, and she sounded too calm for that. Still, he’d already pulled off the road preparing to turn around. “I’m sorry.” Julie Ann sounded flustered. “I’m okay,

just—” She stopped abruptly and Wyatt heard what

sounded like someone banging on the door. He stayed quiet, though he wanted to demand she tell him what was going on. His heart pounded as he made a U-turn, headed back to Westcliff and Julie Ann. “Dammit,” she muttered, probably to herself. “Wyatt, I need your help. There’s a man here who claims to know my brother, and the guy isn’t in the best of moods. I really hate to ask, but you’re much closer than the cops. Could you come back?”

but

it’s

“Absolutely. Are you safe?” “Yeah,” she said without hesitation. Then that warped sense of humor kicked in and his heart just melted. “But I’d prefer not to shoot the guy. The paperwork would be murder and I don’t particularly feel like cleaning blood off the carpet tonight.”

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Chapter Three

“Let me the fuck in, Julie Ann!” The angry voice shouted through the door. Julie Ann had her shotgun at the ready, but really didn’t want to have to use it. Whoever this man was, he was furious. Apparently, her brother’s cronies had found out she’d cut his access to her part of the trust fund as well as his rights to the ranch, and they were furious. “Go away.” She bit her lower lip, trying to keep from losing her mind. It sounded as though the man was quite capable of harming her. Julie Ann had seen Brady’s friends like this before and it was never a good thing to get in the way. “Like hell! You stole my money, you little bitch!” “I kept Brady from squandering my part of our trust fund and the ranch. He’s already got this place mortgaged to the hilt for you guys. I’m not sure I can fix it this time, and you can tell Brady that. This ranch is practically gone and it’s his fault!”

“I couldn’t give a damn about this place, Julie Ann. I want my money! Your brother owes me, and if he can’t pay me, you will!” The longer this went on, the more violent the man would become. It was a pattern she’d seen many times in the past. She didn’t know the guy, but it was an all too familiar situation. Julie Ann hated like hell calling Wyatt back and getting him involved in this mess, but he was the closest person available, and Julie Ann seriously doubted she could talk to the nameless man. Not by herself.

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She was just about to call Wyatt again when the distinctive sound of his big diesel pulled into the driveway. It was all she could do not to sag with relief. Like it or not, the one thing she knew for certain was Wyatt would make this all right. At least for now. As soon as the thought entered her mind, Julie Ann squashed it. According to her dad's friend Jonas, Wyatt was a ranch owner in his own right, but he was new to Westcliff. He was also, technically, her hired hand. What the hell had she been thinking? She had no right dragging him into this mess. He’d probably hate her, and rightly so. Julie Ann would never admit it to a soul, but she was a little afraid of her brother and his “friends.” She had no doubt she could defend herself, but she wasn't certain she could actually shoot someone unless she was certain her life depended on it. That meant she was likely to get hurt before she actually made use of the damned gun. Knowing she’d pulled Wyatt into the middle of this made her feel that much worse. Muffled words in a male voicedefinitely Wyattfollowed by the stranger’s furious response caught her attention. “Who the hell are you? This is between me and that bitch, Julie Ann. Butt the fuck out!” Julie Ann expected more arguing, but there was none. Instead, there were heavy footfalls moving up the porch steps, and the sound of flesh hitting flesh, followed by a bone-rattling thud as a body hit the front door. She raced to the door and flung it open. Brady’s friend slumped against the wood but fell backward when the door moved. He wasn’t unconscious, but Wyatt had definitely

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knocked him silly. He laid half in half out of her home, moaning. “I don’t know who you are or what you think you’re doing, but you will leave her the hell alone.” Wyatt didn’t raise his voice, but the look in those icy blue eyesand the fact that the man’s nose was spurting blood down his shirtconveyed more menace than Julie Ann knew the bully was prepared to deal with. Just like any bully, when someone bigger and stronger got involved, he turned and ran. It’s all fun and games until someone gets his nose broken. Sure enough, there was complete silence for several heartbeats before the man got to his feet, mumbled something under his breath, and stalked away without a backward glance. Wyatt never took his eyes from Brady's “associate” until he was in his truck and headed down the dusty road. “You okay?” Wyatt's voice was gentle, but his eyes hardened when he saw the shotgun in her hands. He moved into the house, gently removing the weapon as he went. Opening the gun, he noted the shells seated in the barrels. Glancing at her, Wyatt unloaded the thing before placing it high on the gun rack above the closet door. “I’m fine. I just really didn’t want to have to shoot anyone, and I knew the situation was too far gone for me to talk sense into him.” “This is about the mortgage your brother took out on the ranch.” It was a statement, not a question. “Brady and his buddies are pissed because I cut them out of the rest of my trust and prevented him from using the ranch as collateral for more high risk loans.” She shrugged.

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“He keeps racking up debt with the people he’s dealing with and he will get hurt. You know that, right?” “I figure that’s why he sent that guy here today. Brady will send someone else if he can’t get more money.” Julie Ann sighed and sank onto the couch. “I really appreciate you coming back, Wyatt.” She looked at him, knowing she revealed far more than she was prepared for him to see but unable to help herself. “I could have handled it, but not without shooting him, and that would have only made things worse.” Wyatt gave her a slight smile. God, he was handsome when he did that. Well, he was handsome anyway, but there was something about his eyes when he smiled at her. Their sky blue depths seemed to gleam just for her, as if she were the most important woman in the world. “I know you could have. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about you over the past few weeks, it’s that you can handle yourself in just about any situation.” He moved to the couch and sat next to her, tucking a stray tendril of hair behind her ear in a curiously intimate gesture. “But I’m still staying here with you tonight.”

 It was a good thing she’d been sitting down, otherwise Julie Ann was certain she’d have fallen on her ass. Not from the shock of his proclamation that he was invading her homewhich she needed to nip in the budbut because of her reaction to his forcefulness. Her stomach flipped, did a funny little roll, and her heart pounded like a jackhammer. Just like that, sweat erupted over her body in anticipation of what the night would bring. No matter how much she knew she needed to do, no matter how much she needed to stand firm to not selling herself

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to keep her home, she knew if he stayed, it would be in her bed. Try as she might, she simply couldn’t deny herself the pleasure. He wanted her. She knew it in her very bones. And, God help her, she wanted him right back with an intensity that should have made her blush. “What makes you think I’m letting you stay?” Again, that heart stopping smile set her on fire. She burned for him. Burned! “What makes you think you have a choice? If you won’t let me stay inside, I’ll just camp out on your doorstep. I’m willing to bet you’re not mean enough to make me sleep outside.” Julie Ann’s hands shook; she was suddenly so nervous she couldn’t say a thing. How the hell did he do it? He’d reduced her to a pile of shivering female hormones in the space of about thirty seconds. “I’m won’t trade myself for this ranch, Wyatt. You have to know that.” Julie Ann wasn’t sure why she felt compelled to say it. She was taking a hell of a lot for granted. If she were wrong about Wyatt’s feelings, she would never be able to look him in the eyes again. Again, he found a stray tendril of hair, this time twirling it around his finger. Wyatt didn’t seem so much to contemplate her words as to be fascinated by that one curl he played with so intently. “I never thought you would,” he said absently. “You will, however, give yourself to me.” It was said so matter-of- factly Julie Ann had to replay it in her mind a couple of times to be sure she’d really heard him correctly. Wyatt met her gaze then. Direct. Potent. Sinfully sexy. “Not for money or to save your ranch. For pleasure. Pure and simple pleasure. Give me one night, Julie Ann. I promise you won’t be disappointed.”

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Chapter Four

Wyatt could see her warring with herself. Her eyes gave her away. He knew she wanted him, which was a good thing. His cock was so hard he wasn’t certain walking away from her was even an option. His dick actually hurt with the building pressure. And that wasn't even taking into account the emotional attachment they'd formed since going to work for her.

Wyatt could fool himself about that as much as he wanted. It didn’t change the fact that he’d grown to love the little spitfire. Julie Ann was one of the hardest working people he knew. He always saw her around the ranch doing a man's share of the work. If he and his partners mended fencing on the south end, they would always see her driving the cattle to the north side. If they took time to put a new roof on a barn, she mended the fences or worked in the hay. Having spent so little time actually in her company, Wyatt was surprised at his feelings for her, but there was no denying they were there. He knew her work ethics and tried to spend a couple of hours with her every few days on the pretense of going over the week’s work, but it had always been an excuse to get to know her better.

Staking his claim now would be a risk. She absolutely could not perceive this as him wanting her to trade sexual favors for her ranch. Though she voiced her denial, Wyatt knew she didn’t think he was in the same class as that slime bag Cameron. If Julie Ann thought that, she’d have tossed him out

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on his ear, no matter what. Even with her brother hovering around, she’d take her chances alone before selling herself. Julie Ann's strength of will was just one more reason Wyatt loved her. Emotions flitted across her face, not the least of which was lust. She definitely wanted him as much as he wanted her. The only question was, could he let her go in the morning? It took her less than thirty seconds to make up her mind. “Okay,” she said, rubbing her hands along her jean clad thighs. “But I want one thing absolutely straight. When it’s ”

over, it’s over. I’m doing this because

She hesitated, then

looked him straight in the eye. “Because you’ve got to be the sexiest man on the face of the earth and I get hot just thinking about what you look like under those tight T-shirts that cling to

you like a second skin when they’re damp with sweat

Her

voice trailed off as her gaze swept him up and down. Wyatt probably should have been embarrassed by her blatant perusal, but he wanted to puff out his chest and do a Tarzan yell. He couldn’t help the lopsided smile. “You think I’m

sexy?”

She licked her lips absently as her gaze continued to roam his body. “Absolutely,” she breathed. Her words were brazen, but her hands still shook. She left a faint dark smudge on her jeans where she continued to rub her palms over her thighs. His little Julie Ann might believe in taking what she wanted, but she was still nervous. “Before we do this,” he started, knowing he wanted to put her at ease and needing to be clean so he didn’t worry about anything but Julie Ann, “I want to take a shower.”

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She blinked up at him, confused. Then she blushed. “Oh! Of course! I’m so sorry.” Julie Ann withdrew from him. Maybe not physically, but emotionally. If he left her alone, she’d talk herself out of this. Good thing he had no intention of leaving her alone. “The bathroom is down the hall on the left—” “No,” he clipped sharply. “You’re coming with me.” She swallowed, clearly starting to regret her decision. Too damned bad. Wyatt stood, catching Julie Ann's hand and tugging her up beside him. His arms went around her easily, holding her flush against his muscular frame. “You can’t back out now, Julie Ann. Not with me wanting you so damned much. Say you want me.” Wyatt knew he was pushing it, but dammit, he burned for her! He’d wanted her for too long without making a sexual move. Now, just this slight contact was setting his blood boiling and his cock throbbing. Wyatt had to keep her wanting him or there was no way he was getting out of here without begging for this woman's favors. That would do wonders for his ego, to be sure.

Her hesitation was miniscule at best. She led the way to the bathroom. Not the one down the hall and to the left, but up the stairs to the master bedroom. Her bathroom. He was willing to bet he was the only man to ever invade that sanctuary. Okay, maybe that was wishful thinking, but the idea of another man in her bed cause a red haze to cover his vision and he had to blink several times and take a few deep breaths to steady himself. Julie Ann was his woman. His! He would make love to her until the break of dawn, then wake her up to more lovemaking. When he was done, she’d never want to let him go. At least, that’s the

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way it played out in his mind. Wyatt had to get himself together. This was his chance. He absolutely could not blow it. They entered her bedroom where the small bathroom was off to the side. Julie Ann gestured to the open door with a shaky hand. “Help yourself. The soap isn’t girlie soap so you don’t have to worry. She grinned at him, obviously trying to ease the nervous tension. He didn’t acknowledge her, preferring to get things started before she could back out. “Undress me, Julie Ann.” Her throat worked as she swallowed her nervousness. “Wyatt, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.” “Too late,” he pressed. “Take off my clothes.” Again, she hesitated a couple of heartbeats before stepping toward him and lifting the hem of his shirt and peeling it over his head. She gasped when she looked at him, her hands finding the heavy muscles of his chest and shoulders. She traced every hollow, every line of his torso almost absently. Her exploration was innocent, yet experienced enough to drive him wild. Her hands slid up his chest to circle his neck as her gaze met his. Wyatt’s hands came to rest on her hips, holding her to him.

“You’re so beautiful,” she breathed, her eyes wide. “I knew you were fit, but this ” He chuckled. “You’re so good for my ego, Julie Ann. Get the rest of my clothing off so I can unwrap you.” ”

“Shhh,” he said, putting a finger to her lips. “You’re not about to proclaim yourself less than perfect. I’ve watched you for weeks now and I know you’re perfect. I’ve seen you filthy dirty working with the cattle and dressed to kill going out to the

“Maybe I don’t want you to. I’m not

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bar.” He gritted his teeth at the last remark. “Do you know how many rowdy cowboys almost lost their lives because they took too many liberties with you on the dance floor?” Finally, she laughed, the tension seeming to drain from her. “I should be freaked out because you’ve been watching me, but I swear Wyatt, it warms my heart. I might be an idiot to say so, but no one has ever looked out for me except my daddy.” “Then, from now on, that’s my job.” She raised one elegantly arched eyebrow. “You going for the father figure? ’Cause that's a little weird.” “Oh, hell no! I’m going more for the jealous husband. Though I’ve never had any experience, I’m pretty sure I can pull it off.”

If his declaration frightened her, or made her uncomfortable, she didn’t show it. Instead, she reached for his waistband and undid the button on his jeans. Sliding them down his hips, she caressed his buttocks, his thighs, his lower legs. He kicked out of the jeans, and pulled her to her feet before she could do more. He was sweaty and there was no way she was doing anything that intimate until he was clean. “What is it?” “Go start the shower. I need to be clean so I can do all the things I’ve fantasized about since I met you.” She smiled in understanding, thank goodness. Only a woman who worked just as hard as he did could truly understand. Julie Ann knew. Wyatt knew she came home just as hot, sweaty, and dirty as he was now. Fuck, that thought made him even harder. While she ran the water, Wyatt removed his socks and underwear, putting the sodden pile of clothing in the corner of

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her bathroom. He’d wear her out and put them in the wash while she rested. Later. Wyatt came up behind Julie Ann as she leaned inside the shower to adjust the water. His hands rested lightly on her hips. She stiffened. Good. She wasn’t used to being touched. That was very good. Wyatt had never felt so possessive in his life, but then this was his Julie Ann. He might not have known her as long as he should have given the depth of his feelings for her, but he couldn’t help it. Wyatt knew in his heart she was his. They were meant for each other. “Are you afraid?” He tried to keep his question mild, but he knew he sounded strained. “A little,” she admitted. “I haven’t done this in a while and I was never very good at it.” Wyatt almost choked on that one. “Trust me, sweetheart, you don’t have to worry about being good. Just be with me. We’ll muddle through the rest together.” She rewarded him with a smile and straightened from the shower. His arms went around her to close securely around her waist. He turned them both until they faced the mirror already clouding with steam. He met her gaze as he lifted the shirt over her head and tossed it to the floor. Her bra followed and his hands found the perfection of her breasts. Their slight weight filled his palms and he just stood there, reveling in the ability to hold her. Julie Ann trembled slightly, though she leaned against him, obviously trying to find her comfort zone. Wyatt wanted to smile, to encourage her as much as he could, but it was taking everything he had not to simply rip the clothing from her body and ravage her. She was so damned beautiful! Until that

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moment, Wyatt hadn’t been aware such perfection existed. She was slim, yet curvy in all the right places. Small waist, flared hips and breasts, sleekly-muscled thighs…all perfect for him. He peeled her jeans from her legs, encouraging her to step out of them. Her panties went the way of everything else and finally she stood in front of him naked and beautiful. Wyatt was certain he could have just stood there and looked at her in the mirror all day. Her nipples peaked in the cool breeze coming from her bedroom through the open door, making him want to take them between his fingers and roll them gently. Better yet, he wanted to draw them into his mouth. One at a time. Suckle her until she cried out his name and begged him to do more. Christ! This wasn’t going to be a slow, sensual assault. If he didn’t get his thoughts under control, he was going to lose it and frighten her off with the fierceness of his need. He gripped her hips and pulled her more fully against his throbbing cock, nestling between her soft cheeks as if he’d found a home there. “Damn, baby. I’ve never wanted anything in my life as much as I want you. You’re so damned beautiful!” He wasn’t a poet, but it was the only way to vocalize his need of her. Knowing it was a losing battle he turned her in his arms and fastened his mouth to hers. The second their lips touched, Wyatt felt as if he’d been punched in the gut. Electricity seemed to arch between them to settle deep in his groin. His balls were heavy with need and his cock pounded insistently between them, begging for entrance into her feminine channel. The soothing scents of her bath soaps and light perfume only served to heighten his pleasure and fuel his lust for Julie Ann. Everything around him was her.

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He was surrounded with Julie Ann as surely as if he’d buried himself deep inside her. Somehow, they made it to the shower. Julie Ann whimpered into his mouth and Wyatt almost melted in a puddle right there. She’d wound her arms around his neck and clung to him, her fingers flexing against his skin as she took what she needed. Almost too late, Wyatt saw the shower cap hanging from a hook at the back of the stall. He grabbed it and broke their kiss to gently wind her hair up and tuck it securely into the cap. “I might be acting like a cad, but I know from hearing you talk to your girlfriends at the bar you don’t like getting your hair wet.” He grinned as her expression turned from shocked to annoyed. “Wyatt Davis, were you eavesdropping on me?” “Anything to give me an advantage, honey. As far as I’m concerned, nothing is out of bounds.” She looked as if she couldn’t decide whether to be flattered or outraged. Instead, she giggled, sliding her arms around him once more. This time, the move felt natural to Wyatt, as if she, too, felt their connection and eased into it without resistance. His arms came around her as easily as his mouth found hers again. She sighed and opened her mouth, accepting his invading tongue. It was heaven to taste her like this, so sweet and tempting. Her mouth was a haven that seemed to consume him as he kissed her. For the life of him, Wyatt wasn’t certain who was claiming whom. All he knew was that, in the space of a few brief seconds, he had lost his heart completely and he wasn’t certain he wanted to reclaim it.

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Chapter Five

Julie Ann wouldn’t have been surprised if the shower stall went up in flames. There was no way the heat she and Wyatt generated could be contained by the scant spray of the water. They burned too hot! His strong arms held her to him with such force she couldn’t breathe. Or maybe, it was simply the adrenaline coursing through her body. Whatever it was, Julie Ann’s body was coiled and ready to spring, yet at the same time, she wanted to melt at Wyatt’s feet. One thing was certain; the man could kiss. He put just enough force behind it that she had to submit to him, yet she wasn’t overwhelmed by him. His strength could have easily intimidated her, but because of the trembling of his body and the huskiness of his voice when he spoke, she knew he was just as affected as she was. That fact alone gave her strength and courage. Finally, Wyatt pulled away, placing little butterfly kisses over her nose, her cheeks, and chin. “I’d better get washed if we want to continue this. I don’t intend to take you in the shower our first time.” He grinned wickedly before kissing her once more. “Though, I make no promises about the second time.” Julie Ann giggled, her fingers trailing over his chest to shape the heavy muscles she found there. Wyatt handed her the soap. “Wash me.” His husky command sent shivers over her body and her cunt wept with need. The man was lethal. He could melt a woman at a hundred paces with that voice and that

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and that body! Julie Ann groaned inwardly. She was

such a goner. Obediently, she rubbed the fresh, clean smelling soap between her palms until the lather was rich and thick. Her hands roamed over his chest, his shoulders. Lower. She traced every ridge and hollow of his sculpted torso, memorizing the layout in case she never got to do this again. The thought was distressing. She needed this man in her life. He was kind and gentle, not to mention sexy as hell. The way he’d stood up for her before had only solidified his place in her heart. The fact that he’d insisted on stayingeven if he did have ulterior motives—meant the world to her. Heaven knows she couldn’t fault him for wanting to have sex with her. She wanted the same from him. As long as he understood it wasn’t for money, she was fine with it. She’d take care of the ranch herself. This was for her. Not for the memory of her family. For her. Standing here in the shower with Wyatt, she knew in her heart he wasn’t the scoundrel James Cameron was. Wyatt was a good man. He wouldn’t have helped her as much as he had otherwise. Taking the soap once again, Julie Ann rubbed the bar over his body this time, wanting to see his reaction to different stimuli. If she was going to do this, she was putting her whole heart into it. She rubbed the smooth bar over his chest and stomach. And lower. She lathered the soap between her hands once more before gripping his shaft tentatively. It jumped in her hands and Wyatt took in a sharp breath. She looked at him, but his eyes were closed and his head back, the water cascading over his hair. Julie Ann slid her soapy hand down his cock, massaging the soap over his thick erection and taut balls. She

smile

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marveled at the size of him even as she brushed her finger over the tip where the soap mixed with a pearly drop of pre-cum. “Christ!” Wyatt pulled her hands away from him, urging them to circle his neck. He lifted her and Julie Ann wrapped her legs around his waist instinctively. Wyatt turned them so the spray hit between their bodies, rinsing the soap away along with Julie Ann’s last ounce of self-preservation. She fused her mouth to his, spearing her tongue deep in an effort to inflame him more. He actually growled, thrusting his tongue into her mouth just like Julie Ann wanted him thrusting in and out of her body. The persistent pushing of his cock against her bottom let her know he was just as affected as she was. Water sluiced over them like a lover’s caress. Julie Ann wasn’t certain she could make it out of the shower. She wiggled and maneuvered, trying to bring her sex in line with Wyatt’s dick. She wanted thiswanted himand she was woman enough to take what she wanted. Wyatt fumbled for the faucet, but Julie Ann was barely aware of it. When the spray stopped, he stepped out of the stall with her still wrapped around his body, seeking his cock with her pussy. Every move he made brought her that much closer to her goal. He rested her on the vanity, reaching for a towel at the same time. With his groin still mashed against hers, he hastily dried them before tossing her shower cap aside and stumbling to the bedroom. They fell together in a heap on her queen sized bed, Wyatt kissing her with a fierceness she’d never experienced. A small sound escaped her as she met each thrust of his tongue with one of her own.

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Wyatt maneuvered them further up on the bed, hooking one of her legs over his forearm and giving him better access to her. His cock rubbed over her sensitive clit with each movement of his hips. Julie Ann was certain she would die before he ever got around to taking her, but Wyatt, for all his fierce kisses and shaking body, didn’t seem interested in rushing things. “I need you, Wyatt!” Her cry was a plea for mercy. She knew it was. Wyatt, unfortunately, didn’t seem to have gotten the message because instead of surging into her he moved down her body. He found one nipple with his mouth and sucked gently, rubbing the sensitive peak between his tongue and the roof of his mouth. Julie Ann tugged at his hair, holding him to her. Electricity zinged from her nipple straight to her pussy. “Patience, sweetheart,” was his husky reply. “We have all night. I plan on enjoying you while I have the chance.” When he finished speaking, Wyatt moved to her other breast, lavishing it with the same maddening attention. By the time he got around to kissing, licking, and nipping his way down her torso to her cunt, Julie Ann was almost screaming with pleasure. Sex had never been like this. Wyatt consumed her, took her body places it had never been and made it his own. She had no idea what the future held, but she knew she’d never forget this as long as she lived. The musky scent of their sweat and sex permeated her bedroom. Their lovemaking was accompanied by their moans, whimpers, and cries as Wyatt touched and kissed every inch of her body. When his greedy mouth finally covered her sex, Julie Ann came with an intensity she hadn’t known herself capable of. Her vision narrowed to Wyatt’s head between her thighs, her fingers bunched tightly in his hair, holding him close. She rode

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his face as best she could, needing the pleasure he brought her like she needed to breathe. For a few moments, all Julie Ann could do was lay there, looking at the ceiling as Wyatt sucked and flicked her sensitized clit. When her orgasm claimed her, stars actually danced over her field of vision and she screamed his name until her throat was raw and hurting. He didn’t give her a chance to recover. Wyatt was over her, pressing against her before the spasms stopped. With one smooth stroke, he plunged into her, stretching her deliciously. He was a big man and Julie Ann, while not an innocent, wasn’t the type to sleep with just any man. The burn from the way he stretched her cunt only added to the pleasure and excitement. She closed her eyes and threw her head back, wailing her pleasure in a sure, loud scream. “Look at me, Julie Ann. Look at me!” His voice was gruff in command. It only made her cream for him all the more. She obeyed, tears streaming from her eyes. Tears of pleasure, of joy. It was all so beautiful, she couldn’t help herself. Even amidst the savagery of his possession, she still felt love in every touch of his mouth, his hands, his body. “Keep your eyes on me, sweetheart. Don’t look away. I want to see every expression, every emotion. I want it all.” When Julie Ann nodded, Wyatt began to move.  Wyatt wasn’t sure how long he could hold himself together. She was so hot and tight. The friction on his dick was maddening. All he wanted to do was close his eyes and let go. But watching her come apart under his mouth had been like watching some carnal angel in heaven. Her responses were

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genuine, not planned to boost his ego or to get the act over with as soon as possible. He could see it all in her eyes. When she came, their chocolate amber depths seemed to glaze over and darken. Her body trembled beneath him, clenching around his tongue, and now his dick. Little spasms of delight rippled through her and threatened to squeeze the life out of him. When he moved, she clamped even tighter around him. Gasps escaped her lips and her eyes lids slid halfway closed, but she still kept eye contact with him. Fire raced through him, centering on the place where their bodies joined. Each surge forward brought him closer and closer to his own orgasm, but he held on to his control with every ounce of willpower he possessed. It was a good thing he was stubborn, otherwise he would’ve exploded the second he entered her. Her body was a haven he’d never thought to enjoy and he intended to keep her. Forever. Julie Ann braced her free foot on the back of his calf, using it as leverage to push herself onto him. Faster and faster she urged him, pulling with her hands on his hips. She panted out her breath and sweat slickened her skin so their bodies glided together with ease. “Oh, sweet merciful heaven, Wyatt! I’m coming! God, I’m coming!” Her muscles clamped down on him and the sensation was too damned much for Wyatt. He held off as long as he could, wanting her to ride out her pleasure before he took his.

With a primal scream, Julie Ann arched her back. Wyatt gave himself the go ahead and let himself be consumed by the fire arching between them. Hot seed burst into her, jet after jet bathing her insides. With a moment of panic, Wyatt realized he

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hadn’t used protection. Never in his adult life had he made that mistake. Unfortunately, he couldn’t bring himself to stop now. He intended to marry Julie Ann so protection wasn’t at the top of the priority list. Still, he should have thought to ask her. Julie Ann clung to him, her heart pounding so hard he could feel it through her breasts. Hell, his own heart hammered almost unbearably hard. All Wyatt could do was lay there, gasping for breath, still buried inside Julie Ann. He’d be happy to stay like this forever. “Wow,” she breathed. When he looked at her, her eyes were wide in wonder. “I’ve never experienced anything so wonderful, Wyatt.” She stroked his cheek with her fingertips. “Thank you.” He chuckled. “Honey, that was all you. Sex has never been like this for me. I just went along for the ride.” Her giggle poured over him like warm honey, melting his insides so that, in this one perfect moment, he’d have given Julie Ann anything in the world. She was the woman for him, everything he’d always wanted. She was beautiful beyond measure, honest to a fault, more caring than anyone he’d ever met, and spunky as hell. With a groan, he levered himself off the bed, giving her a quick kiss on the mouth before heading to the bathroom to get a cloth to clean them both. Once he was certain she was comfortable, he crawled beneath the covers and pulled her close to him, nuzzling her head with his lips and chin. She was drowsy, but seemed happy, if the smile on her face was any indication. Julie Ann put her hand over the one he had resting on her belly. Moments later, her breathing was deep and even.

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Wyatt sighed. He couldn’t remember a time in his life when he’d felt so contented. He had had sex with many women over the course of his adult life, but never had he even considered spending the night with a woman. Not unless they’d had sex all night anyway. When he was ready for sleep, he went home. End of story. Now, all he wanted to do was drift off to sleep with his woman wrapped securely in his arms. Moments later, that’s exactly what he did.

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Chapter Six

The next day and night were the happiest of Julie Ann’s life. Wyatt made love to her in every room of the house. Even on the front porch, much to her dismay. She’d leaned against the railing and he’d pounded her from behind until neither could stand. They’d laughed over that one, likening themselves to careless teenagers. Wyatt had then proven he still had a voracious appetiteat least when it came to herby carrying her upstairs to bed and continuing where they’d left off on the porch.

Never once did they use protection. At first, there’d been panic, but only until she’d looked at him. One look into his gorgeous, blue eyes and she couldn’t find it in her to care. She knew there’d never be another. If Wyatt left the next day, never to return, no other man could ever compare to him. And she’d never been a woman to settle for second best. Saturday morning dawned overcast and gloomy, just like her mood. She wasn’t any closer to figuring out how she would pay James. Lying in her bed, wrapped securely in Wyatt’s arms, she realized that the ranch might have been her father’s legacy, but what she’d found with Wyatt was far more important. It was what her father had always said: love was more important than anything material. A house could be rebuilt, another ranch could be purchased, but you couldn’t buy love. Not true love. She was beginning to realize she might have a chance at true love with Wyatt.

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His hold tightened on her as if he could read her thoughts. “Don’t worry, sweetheart,” he murmured drowsily. “I’ll take care of everything. Not because you slept with me either, so don’t get all defensive. I’ve got more money than my grandkids will ever be able to spend, so it’s really no big deal to me. Hell, James Cameron is such a sorry son of a bitch, I’d have given it to you just to keep him from getting his hands on anymore land in West Cliff.” Julie Ann opened her mouth to protest, but he silenced her by rolling over lazily to cover her body with his. He feathered kisses along her jaw to her ear, then down to her neck and shoulder. Then his cock was seeking entrance to her. With an easy, lazy move of his hips, Wyatt made love to her. And that’s what it was. Love. She’d never believed love happened this fast, and maybe it was all in her head. The fact was, no one had ever made her feel as special as Wyatt did. He found her desirable. He liked her smart mouth. Hell, he even liked her saucy attitude, laughing at her as she ordered him around when he’d flustered her by taking her on the dining room table. Wyatt treated her with respect, made her feel beautiful where no one else, other than her father, ever had. “I’ll go with you to the bank and we’ll take care of this together.” Normally, she would have insisted on doing it herself, but it would be nice to have Wyatt there so she didn’t have to be in the same room alone with James. His movements remained slow and easy, as if he was taking his time and savoring the moment. With a happy sigh, Julie Ann wound her arms around his neck, only to slide over his heavily muscled arms and back

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again. “I know this is a bit premature, but this weekend has been so special to me, Wyatt.” He answered her smile with a heart stopping one of his own. “It has to me, too. I’m glad you called me back Thursday night. Much as I don’t like physical violence, I’m so glad you called. I like knowing you came to me when you had a problem. Besides, they’d have sent someone else if they thought they were dealing with Brady’s little sister. She shoved at him to put a little distance between them. “Are you saying I’m a pushover?” He chuckled, bending once more to claim her lips. “Not at all. I’m merely saying he’s your brother and you love him. I’m betting he knows that. Me, he’s not so sure about. I prefer to keep it that way.” Julie Ann tried to pout, but her body was coming to life again and she didn’t care about her brother at the moment. It just wasn’t worth the effort. She’d much rather put that energy into making love with Wyatt. Shoving at him hard, she pushed until he gave in and she rolled them over and sat up, straddling Wyatt’s legs, their bodies still joined. Wyatt’s hands immediately went to her hips, gliding over her hips and thighs, caressing with the lightest of touches. She grinned at him. “I prefer it that way too. Much as I love my brother, it will be good to have a shield between me and him. If, that is, you plan on staying around a little while.” She said it flippantly, not wanting to give too much of herself away. To her relief, Wyatt sat up, curling his muscled arms around her like two tight bands. “Oh, make no mistake,” he said, capturing her gaze and not letting go. “I have no intention

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of going anywhere unless you tell me specifically you don’t want me here.” The breath she hadn’t even been aware she was holding expelled in a great sigh of relief. It was funny how much it mattered to her that he wanted to stay. But it did. She wanted this man in her life. Not for protection or for what he represented to her home, but because of him. Wyatt was a man of his word. A man who guarded his integrity zealously and never said anything he didn’t mean. He was kind, hard working, and made her feel like she finally had a place in the world and it was at his side. Julie Ann melted into him. Her mouth found his and she poured her heart and soul into her kiss, all the while doing a little shimmy on his cock, trying her best to return all the pleasure he’d given her all weekend. Wyatt broke the kiss to bend her back to allow him access to her breasts where he lavished each nipple with the pleasure of his tongue and teeth. He maneuvered himself so his legs were underneath him and he sat back on his heels, the position giving him a little more leverage to surge into her. He was an active lover, not one to sit back and let her do all the work. Julie Ann couldn’t help but smile. Yes. He was her perfect man.

Finally, Wyatt lay her down on the bed, her thighs over his. He gripped her waist and pounded into her. Over and over he moved, his fingers digging into her delicate flesh with almost painful intensity. Julie Ann didn’t mind, though. The slight pain only enhanced the pleasure, and her orgasm was building faster than she thought possible.

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As if sensing how close she was, Wyatt used his thumb to stimulate her clit. At the first touch, Julie Ann fell. She embraced the orgasm, letting it consume her as she screamed his name. Her body must have taken him with her because his hips jerked as if out of control and he let his head fall back and roared his release. Cords of tendon and muscle stood out against his neck as he emptied himself inside her. For a moment neither of them moved, their breaths coming in ragged gasps. Then Wyatt eased out of her. He looked like a very satisfied, very smug Cheshire cat. Julie Ann couldn’t help but laugh at him. “Don’t get it in your head you’re some kind of stud. It’s just been a while for me and I’m sure I’m easily satisfied.” He laughed outright at her. “Oh, that was cruel! You cut me to the quick.” But he didn’t look hurt. He looked completely and utterly sated. “Come on. Shower and get ready. I want this bank business over with so I can bring you back here and make love to you the rest of the day.” “Wyatt! No. No way can you still want me.” She shook her head, laughing in pure joy at her new found sexual freedom. God, but she loved the way he made her feel. “I most certainly can. I don’t plan on letting you out of this bed for the entire week.” She threw a pillow at him as she got up to shower, hoping everything went smoothly. If she knew James, however, things would be anything but smooth.

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Chapter Seven

“Let me get this straight.” James Cameron pinched the bridge of his nose, a pained look on his face. “You’re paying off the loans against Julie Ann’s ranch? All of them?” “Yes.” The good humor Wyatt enjoyed while alone with Julie Ann had vanished, replaced with a need to smash his fist into the face of the money hungry banker. He wanted Julie Ann’s ranch, and, more importantly, he wanted Julie Ann. Wyatt was bound and determined he would get neither. Julie Ann sat across the desk from James, her hand firmly in Wyatt’s. It might have been a little crass, but he had a pressing need to make sure everyone who saw them knew they were a couple, not just two friends doing business together. “Why would you do that? What is she to you?” Julie Ann started to open her mouth, but Wyatt squeezed her hand. Had she wanted to confront the little bastard, she’d have done it. The fact that she kept silent told Wyatt she had no desire to fight this battle. It was obvious she was very uncomfortable even being here. “Everything,” Wyatt answered. “She’s everything and more to me. Buying out her mortgage to save her family’s legacy is the very least I can do, especially if it means she’ll grace me with one of her smiles.” With every word, James’s face grew redder and redder. Wyatt had met James when he and his friends had moved to West Cliff a couple of years ago. Two things he’d learned about the man were that he hated losing, and he had the temper of a

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maddened grizzly bear. Because of that, Wyatt deliberately placed himself between Julie Ann and James so she could make a run for the door should James forget himself and completely lose it. Wyatt had seen the man fly into a rage on more than one occasion and had no intention of Julie Ann being anywhere in the vicinity should Wyatt have to smash James’s face. As expected, James turned his wrath Julie Ann’s way. “I though you said you wouldn’t sell yourself for that ranch? Yet, I’m barely off the property before you spread your legs for someone with just a little more money.” He looked back at Wyatt. “She’s nothing but a whore. She’ll take what she wants from you then get rid of you and move on to the next soft- hearted bastard.” “You had no problem offering to marry her yourself.” Wyatt held on to his anger by his considerable force of will. He wanted nothing more than to pound the other man into oblivion. “What changed your mind?” James looked ready to explode. “She was going to marry me until you came along, Davis. I’m just a little concerned she’s playing you like she played me.” “When did I ever agree to marry you?” Julie Ann looked almost as furious as Wyatt felt. She tried to let go of his hand, but Wyatt held her firm. “I never insinuated I’d be willing to be with you in any way, least of all by marrying you.” James opened his mouth to reply, but Wyatt cut him off. “Just show me the figures. I want this taken care of today and then I don’t ever want to see you on Julie Ann’s property again.” The other man seemed to weigh his options, then pulled out a folder with all the paperwork. The figure for the pay off

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wasn’t as much as Wyatt expected, but it was still more than Julie Ann could have hoped to pay even the interest on at the late date she’d gotten wind of it. Calmly, Wyatt took out his checkbook and wrote it for the amount. “I wish I could say it was a pleasure doing business with you, but we’d both know it would be a lie.” He stared at James until the other man backed down, then he pulled Julie Ann to her feet. James handed them their copies of the paperwork and Wyatt ushered Julie Ann out without another word. With any luck, James wouldn’t act stupid and bother Julie Ann anymore. Wyatt wasn’t sure he could be civil if he ever saw the man again. Once they were in Wyatt’s truck and the doors safely closed. Julie Ann let out a sigh of relief. “I’ve never been so uncomfortable in my whole entire life. I’m so glad you came with me. How in the world am I ever going to repay you for this? I have no idea why I let you talk me into letting you square the mortgage with the bank. I think you seduced me into it.” Wyatt grinned, his mood lightening the second they were outside of the bank. “Absolutely. I wove my spell around you and you were helpless against my considerable charms.” Julie Ann laughed, carefree and sounding happy. “I’d deny it, but it would be a lie. But seriously, what can I do to repay your kindness? I don’t believe in freeloading, even from someone with so much money thathow did you put it?your grandkids would never be able to spend it.” He waved a dismissing hand. “Not to worry. I’ve got that part figured out too.” Raising a delicate eyebrow Julie Ann replied. “Oh, really? What did you have in mind?”

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Despite the lightness of the mood, Wyatt’s heart pounded. He’d debated on this since he’d gotten up this morning and hadn’t been sure until this very second he was actually going through with it. “Marry me. Give me at least four children and we’ll call it even.” Julie Ann sucked in a breath, her mouth opening in shock and surprise. “What did you say?” Her voice was almost a whisper and her hand fluttered to her mouth. “You heard me, sweetheart.” Wyatt opened the console of his truck and pulled out a tiny box. He flipped back the cover and revealed the most beautiful diamond and emerald engagement ring Julie Ann had ever seen. It looked to be a full carat for the main stone, but wasn’t gaudy. It was put together delicately, set in a band of yellow gold. Wyatt took it out of the box and slid it easily onto the ring finger of her left hand. “Marry me, Julie Ann. Be my wife and stay with me forever.”  Of all the things she’d expected, this wasn’t even in the cards. Oh, she’d hoped one day maybe they’d get here, but not this soon. Up until that moment, it had only been a pleasant fantasy. She stared at the ring on her finger shining in the sunlight, and tears filled her eyes. Her mind was telling her to back off. This was way too soon. She might have known the man in a professional way, but the personal stuff was just too new. There was no way this could possibly work. What if he left his dirty underwear lying in the middle of the bathroom floor? What if, God forbid, he squeezed his toothpaste from the middle of the tube? Would those things drive her insane? And what was that thing about at least four kids?

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“You’re out of your mind, Wyatt,” she whispered. “Completely insane.” “I know. So, what’s it going to be? Will you marry me or embarrass me by making me return this beautiful ring? You know I bragged to the sales lady about how I had the most gorgeous and intelligent woman in the world. How do you think it will make me feel to have to take this back and tell her you didn’t want me? It would completely unman me.” Julie Ann wasn’t fooled for a moment. “You’re such a cry baby!” She laughed. The tears spilled over and ran down her cheeks. Wyatt brushed them away with the pads of his fingers, bringing his fingers to his lips and tasting her tears. For some reason, that simple gesture was the most sinfully erotic thing she’d ever witnessed. And after the previous night, she’d witnessed a lot. “Well? I need an answer, sweetheart. Will you marry

me?”

With a burst of something between laughter and tears, Julie Ann nodded her head. “Yes, Wyatt. I’ll marry you. I wouldn’t want your reputation to be ruined. The damage to your fragile ego might be more than you can take.” Wyatt pulled her to him for a kiss. He wanted to do more, but it would have to wait until they got home. His tongue slid easily into her mouth, stroking the way he wanted to do with his cock deep in her pussy. Her surrender to him was as sweet as ever. They’d only spent a couple of days together in an intimate way, but he was already so smitten with her he doubted he could ever get her out of his skin. When they broke apart reluctantly, Julie Ann flashed one of those killer smiles he was growing to love every second he

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was in her company. “I didn’t say it before because I felt kind of silly given we’ve not even been on a real date, but I really do love you.” “I know.” He smiled at her, too smug for her liking. So she punched his arm. “Wait,” he laughed raising a hand to ward off her blows. “I simply meant you’re not the kind of woman to agree to marry someone unless you were in love with him. And just so you know, I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t love you right back.”

Julie Ann’s heart fluttered and her stomach did a crazy little flip at his words. “All the same, I’d like a bit of an engagement. I don’t want to jump into this any more than we already have. I’d like us to get to know each other a little better. I won’t have you squeezing the toothpaste tube from the middle.” Wyatt laughed, his handsome face looking almost boyish in delight. “I’m all good with a long engagement. I just want that ring securely around your finger so no one else tries to move in on me. I’d really hate to kill anyone here in Colorado. They’re not as forgiving about such things here as they are in Texas.” They both laughed and Julie Ann was happier than she could ever remember being. “Now that that’s settled, take me home, cowboy. I have some riding I want to do.” “I definitely love the way you think, honey.”

Marteeka

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Marteeka Karland

Erotic romance author by night, emergency room tech/clerk by day, Marteeka Karland works really hard to drive everyone in her life completely and totally nuts. She has been creating stories from her warped imagination since she was in the third grade. Her love of writing blossomed throughout her teenage years until it developed into the totally unorthodox and irreverent style her English teachers tried so hard to rid her of.

Want to see whats up with Marteeka? Check out her website at www.marteekakarland.com or join her Yahoo! group at marteekakarland-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Marteeka always welcomes e-mail from her readers. You can reach her at mkarland@gmail.com.