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The Wild Rose Press
The Wild Rose Press
Contemporary western romantic suspense.
Kendra Zelner has three brothers: Eight-year old Noah she's determined to protect, Joel who has no clue she exists, and Robert who wants her dead.
With reason to be distrustful of cops, she takes Noah and flees their Manhattan home for Joel’s ranch in Colorado. Under the pretense of needing a job, she plans to hide out until her twenty-fifth birthday, when she’ll inherit her trust fund and legally gain custody of Noah away from Robert’s greedy hands. Unfortunately, her brother’s sexy, infuriating ranch manager insists on demolishing her defenses and digging into her past.
Colton Lawe has good reason to suspect Joel’s beautiful, long-lost sister isn’t what she seems—the little liar stole from him! He silently vows to expose her secrets, but long hours together on the ranch fosters a closeness and fiery attraction neither of them expects. Can Kendra trust Colton with the full truth before Robert finds them?
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As Joel and Britt conversed, Colton watched Kendra struggle with her composure and saw a glimmer of panic and fear give way for uncertainty in her suddenly expressive face. It was like reading a book. He read wariness in the one glance she cast in his direction, and knew she wondered why he gave up the house for her; why he didn’t reveal her for the liar he knew her to be.
Well, let her keep wondering. If he kept the little klepto off balance, it might be easier to protect the Morgan’s while gathering solid evidence to expose her scam.
Britt walked toward the foyer. “Joel, I’ll stall them while you show Kendra the guesthouse so she and Noah can freshen up.”
“I’ll take her,” Colton offered.
A flash of dismay in her eyes confirmed she didn’t like that prospect one bit.
“That would help.” Joel turned to Kendra. “Do you mind?”
Colton’s direct gaze dared her to object. After a visible swallow, she shook her head no.
“Thanks.” Joel walked by Colton and gave him a clap on the shoulder. “Don’t have to tell you how the Coopers are.” Pausing at the door, he looked at Kendra. “We’ll all have dinner tonight, after you’re settled, okay?”
She offered a weak smile of agreement, and then Joel’s boots echoed across the floor with his departure. The moment they were alone, Colton braced his hands on the table and leaned forward.
Her wide gaze met his, full of apprehension. In a moment of distraction, he thought how very pretty her brown eyes were.
As she reached for her coffee cup, her tongue appeared and swiped nervously across her lips. A jolt of awareness took him completely by surprise.
Colton shoved back from the table. She jumped, then took a drink as if everything were normal.
Colton forced any thoughts of pretty or sexy from his mind and managed to sound relatively normal when he asked, “Ready?”
She took her time setting the cup down before standing. He pushed his hands into his front pockets when she picked up the two dusty leather duffle bags near the entry between the kitchen and the foyer. He’d be damned if he’d offer to carry them, but then found himself holding the back door open.
“You’ll like it here,” he said, hoping to lull her into a false sense of security. She cast him a quick glance as they walked toward a house set back near the trees, halfway between the main house and three barns.
“Colorado is very pretty,” she finally replied.
He flashed a brief smile. “I meant the ranch. Joel and Britt are great, and they’ve got some of the best horses in the state.”
She nodded, shifting the bags in her arms. A glance at his empty hands told him she was annoyed that he didn’t offer assistance. Hah. As if he owed her any courtesy at all.
“Where’re you from?”
After a distinct hesitation, she supplied, “New York.”
“The city or just the state?” he pressed.
“Hmmm. This is a far cry from New York.”
A small smile curved her lips. “You can say that again.”
“This is a far cry from—”
“I didn’t mean it literally.” Her smile widened.
The situation demanded he laugh with her, but he forced his attention off her smile. Once on the porch, he opened the door and stepped inside ahead of her. Then he waited. For the sound of her footsteps. For the thump of her bags hitting the floor. For the click of the door to assure privacy.
“I wanted to—”
When he turned, she halted mid-sentence. Her apologetic expression gave way to an alarmed squeak when he grasped her upper arms and pushed her up against the wall. The bulk of his body gave her no room to move.
“Who the hell are you?” he demanded.
Stark fear dilated her pupils until her brown eyes were nearly black. Her breathing grew shallow, and she gulped twice before stuttering, “Y-you know w-who I am.”
He tightened his grip on her shoulders, then became aware of how delicate they seemed under his large hands and forced himself to ease up. “I don’t believe it. You’re up to something, and you’ve got about five seconds to tell me what it is.”
“H-honestly, I’m n-not.”
Colton scoffed. “So, it’s merely coincidence that you robbed me this morning and then show up here claiming to be some long lost relative?”
“It’s nothing more than cruel coincidence—I swear to God.”
“Don’t you dare do that. I don’t buy one word of it.” He leaned closer, ignoring her trembling beneath his hands. “Who are you? What do you want with Joel?”
“He told you, I’m his sister. Please…all I want is a place to stay until my…until we get back on our feet. We have nowhere else to go.”
He caught her hesitation, saw a brief flash of panic, and wondered what she’d been about to say.
He searched her expression for any kernel of truth to her words.
In the space of a heartbeat, he became aware of the heat of her vibrating body. If he leaned down a few inches, their lips would meet. His pulse thrummed. The urge to do just that was so great it left him shaken as he stared into her eyes. She was an untrustworthy, lying, thieving, scheming con artist.
And he’d never felt an immediate attraction like this in his life.