by Lizbeth Selvig
Amelia Crockett’s life was going exactly the way she had always planned—until one day, it wasn’t.
When Mia’s career plans are shattered, the always-in-control surgeon has no choice but to head home to Paradise Ranch and her five younger sisters, cowboy boots in tow, to figure out how to get her life back on track. The appearance of a frustrating, but oh-so-sexy, former soldier, however, turns into exactly the kind of distraction she can’t afford.
He studied her as if assessing how blunt he could be. With a wry little lift of his lip, he closed his eyes and lay all the way back onto the blanket, hands behind his head. “Honestly? You were just so much fun to get a rise out of. You’d t
urn all hot under the collar, like you couldn’t figure out how anyone could dare counter you—the big-city doc coming to Hicksville with the answers.”
The teasing tone of his voice was clear, but the words stung nonetheless. Funny. They wouldn’t have bothered her at all a week ago, she thought. Now it hurt that he would ever think of her that way. She hadn’t been that awful—she’d only wanted to put order to the chaos and bring a little rationality to the haywire emotions after her mother and sister’s awful accident.
“Hey.” She turned at the sound of his voice to find him sitting upright beside her again. “Amelia, I know better now. I know you. I’m not judging you—then or now.”
Pricks of miniscule teardrops stung her eyes, the result of extreme embarrassment—and profound relief. She had no idea what to make of the reaction. It was neither logical nor something she ever remembered experiencing.
To her horror, the roughness of her emotions shone through her voice, and Gabriel peered at her, his face a study in surprise. “Are you crying? Amelia, I’m sorry—I was just giving you grief, I wasn’t—”
“I’m not crying.” Her insistence held no power even though it wasn’t a lie. No water fell from her eyes; it just welled behind the lids. “I’m not upset. I’m . . . relieved. I . . . it was nice, what you . . . said.” She clamped her mouth closed before something truly stupid emerged and looked down at the blanket, picking at a pill in the wool’s plaid pile.
A touch beneath her chin drew her gaze back up. Gabriel’s eyes were mere inches from hers, shining with that beautiful caramel brown that suddenly looked like it could liquefy into pure sweetness and sex. Every masculine pore of his skin caught her attention and made her fingers itch to stroke the texture of his cheek. The scent of wind-blown skin and chocolate tantalized her.
“Don’t be anything but what and who you are, Amelia Crockett.”
His kiss brushed her mouth with the weightlessness of a Monarch on a flower petal. Soft, ethereal, tender, it promised nothing but a taste of pleasure and asked for nothing in return. Yet, as subtle as it was, it drove a punch of desire deep into Mia’s core and then set her stomach fluttering with anticipation.
He pulled back but his fingers remained on her chin. “I’m sorry. That was probably uncalled for.”
When his fingers, too, began to slide from her skin, she reacted without thinking and grabbed his hand. “No. It’s . . . It was . . . Gah—” Frustrated by her constant, unfamiliar loss for words, she leaned forward rather than let mortification set in and pressed a kiss against his lips this time, foregoing light and airy for the chance to taste him fully. Beneath the pressure, his lips curved into a smile. She couldn’t help it then, her mouth mimicked his and they clashed in a gentle tangle of lips, teeth, and soft, surprised chuckles.
“Crazy,” he said in a whisper, as he encircled her shoulders and pulled her closer.
“Yeah,” she agreed and opened her mouth to invite his tongue to meet hers.
First kisses in Mia’s experience were usually fraught with uncertainty and awkwardness about what should come next, but not this one. Kissing Gabriel seemed as natural and pleasurable as walking along a stunning stream full of rapids and eddies and satisfying things to explore. She explored them all and let him taste and enjoy right back. When at last they let each other go, her head continued to spin with surprise, and every nerve ending sparkled with desire.
An Excerpt from
RESCUED BY THE RANGER
by Dixie Lee Brown
Army Ranger Garrett Harding is new in town—but not necessarily welcome. The only thing Rachel Maguire wants is to send this muscled military man packing. But when the stalker who destroyed her life ten years ago reappears, Rachel hits the road hoping to lure danger away from those she loves. Garrett won’t let this sexy spitfire face trouble alone. He’ll do anything to protect her. Even if it means risking his life—and his heart.
Pressed tight to the wall, Garrett waited. As she burst from cover, looking over her right shoulder and away from him, he stepped toward her. Catching her around the middle, he swung her off her feet and up against his body, holding her tightly with both arms. “It’s me, Rach. Take it easy. I just want to talk.”
She stopped struggling, so he loosened his hold as he set her back on her feet. Mistake number one. She dug her fingernails into his forearm, scratching until she drew blood. As soon as he leaned over her shoulder to grab her hand, she whacked his jaw with the back of her head, hard enough to send him stumbling back a step. He shook his head to clear the stars in time to see her swing that black bag.
“Wait a minute, Rachel!” Garrett tried to duck, but her shorter height gave her the advantage. She caught him across the side of the head, and there was apparently something heavy and damn hard in her bag. He staggered, lost his balance, and went down.
She looked surprised for a second before determination steeled her expression. “I told you not to look for me. What didn’t you understand about that?” Shifting her bag onto her shoulder, she turned, and started running down the alley.
“Well, shit.” Garrett glanced at Cowboy and damned if it didn’t look like he was laughing. “Okay, already. You were right. Saddle up, Cowboy.”
The dog took off, his long strides closing the distance to Rachel’s retreating back easily. Garrett stood, brushing the dirt off and taking a moment to stretch the ache from the wound in his back. Then he jogged after the girl and the dog. He’d seriously underestimated Rachel today. Cowboy had his instructions to stop her, but keeping her there would require a whole different set of commands—ones that Garrett would never utter where Rachel was concerned.
Ahead of him, the dog ran circles around her, making the circle smaller each time. When she finally stopped, keeping a wary eye on the animal, Cowboy dropped to a walk, his tail wagging as he angled toward her. Though she didn’t move, her body, tense and ready, said she was on high alert. Garrett picked up his pace to reach them.