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Linda Howard Duncan's Bride WIFE WANTED Reese Duncan lost half his ranch and all his dreams to his ex-wife, so when i. Reese Duncan wanted a wife, pure and simple. Someone to have children with, someone to help him rebuild his ranch, someone. Duncan's Bride (Patterson-Cannon Family #1) ". By: Linda Howard. Epub Download Gratis, Ebook Download Pdf, Ebook Download Pdf.

Robert was a true enigma: Don't try to make me pay for what April did," she warned. It didn't sound as if his rejection had wounded her too badly. She skipped over World Affairs — they were the same in Omaha as in New York — read Midwestern and local news, learning how the drought was affecting farmers and ranchers but creating a booming business for the slaughterhouses, and who had married or was intending to. Give me some credit. Her heart was racing now, pounding out a painful rhythm.

What did it matter to her that he'd had to beggar himself and sell his land, his herds, wipe out his bank accounts, to give her the half of his assets to which she felt "entitled"?

After all, hadn't she been married to him for two whole years? Hadn't she lived through two hellish Montana winters, entirely cut off from civilization? So what if the ranch had been in his family for a hundred years; two years of marriage "entitled" her to half of it, or its equivalent in cold, hard cash. Of course, she had been more than happy to settle for the cash.

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If he didn't have that much, he could sell a little land. After all, he had oodles of it; he wouldn't miss a few thousand acres. It helped that her father was a business magnate who had a lot of connections in Montana as well as the other western states, which explained why the judge hadn't been swayed by Reese's arguments that the amount April was demanding would bankrupt him.

That was another mistake he wouldn't make. The woman he married this time would have to sign a prenuptial agreement that would protect the ranch in case of divorce.

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He wouldn't risk so much as one square foot of the dirt of his children's heritage, or the money it would take to run it. No woman was going to take him to the cleaners again; she might leave, but she wouldn't leave with anything of his. Given the way he felt, he would have been just as happy to remain single for the rest of his life if there hadn't been the question of children.

He wanted kids. He wanted to teach them to love the land as he had been taught, to leave that land to them, to pass on the legacy that had been passed on to him.

More than that, he wanted the life that children would bring to the empty old ranch house, the laughter and tears and anger, the pain of childish fears and the shouts of joy. He wanted heirs of his bone and blood. To have those children, he needed a wife.

A wife would be convenient, too. There was a lot to be said for available sex, especially since he didn't have the time to waste trying to find it. All he needed was a solid, steady, undemanding woman in his bed every night, and his hormones would take care of the rest of it.

But unmarried, marriageable women were scarce in that part of the country; they were all packing up and moving to the cities. Ranch life was hard, and they wanted some excitement in their lives, some luxuries. Reese didn't have the time, money or inclination to go courting, anyway. There was a more efficient way to find a woman than that. He'd read a magazine article about how many farmers in the Midwest were advertising for wives, and he'd also seen a television program about men in Alaska who were doing the same.

Part of him didn't like the idea of advertising, because he was naturally a private man and had become even more so after his disastrous marriage. On the other hand, he wouldn't have to spend a lot of money just put a few ads in the personal sections of some newspapers, and money meant a lot to him these days. He wouldn't have to meet the women who didn't appeal to him, wouldn't have to waste time driving here and there, taking them out, getting to know them.

He didn't particularly want to get to know them, not even the one he would eventually choose to be his wife. There was a hard layer of ice encasing him, and he liked it that way. Vision was much clearer when it was unclouded by emotion. The impersonality of an ad appealed to that part of him, even though the private part of him disliked the public nature of it.

But he'd decided that was the way to go, and Reese Duncan didn't waste time once he'd made a decision. He would put the ad in several of the larger newspapers in the West and Midwest. Drawing a pad of paper toward him to begin framing how he wanted the ad to read, he wrote in bold, slashing strokes: A WIFE You never got the sense that Madelyn had hurried over anything, her friend Christine mused as Madelyn strolled toward her.

Nor did you ever think that Madelyn sweated. It was ninety-five degrees outside, but no dampness or wrinkles marred her perfect oyster-white dress, set off by the periwinkle silk scarf draped artfully over one shoulder. Madelyn was a clotheshorse; everything looked good on her, but her own sense of style and color added a panache that stirred women to envy and men to lust.

You give your sweat glands an appointment? Normal people sweat without exertion in weather like this. And do your clothes wrinkle? Does your hair ever hang in your face? Madelyn propped herself against the edge of Christine's desk and crossed her legs at the ankle. It was an angular, almost masculine pose that looked graceful when Madelyn did it. She tilted her head to study the newspaper Christine had been reading.

Her engagement announcement is here. A distant acquaintance has died, an old boyfriend has made his first million, the drought is driving feed prices sky-high. Usual stuff. She couldn't stand his guts when we were dating. He was a know-it-all. It's disconcerting when things turn out to be exactly as they seemed.

I wish I'd read it before I left Omaha. It's too late for culture shock. Or are you just in a blue mood because you broke up with the Wall Street Wonder last week and haven't found a replacement yet? She and Christine honed their wits on each other with mutual enjoyment while still maintaining a totally amicable relationship.

Madelyn had learned early that not everyone enjoyed that kind of conversation. Several teenage boyfriends had been, in various degrees, insulted, angered, or intimidated, which had promptly ended her fledgling relationships with them.

Boys were too caught up in their hormonal urges and too wildly protective of their newfound masculinity to tolerate what they saw as the faintest slight to that masculinity, and unfortunately, Madelyn's lazy wit often seemed to offend. She sighed, thinking about it, because somehow it didn't seem that things were much different now.

She stared at her desk. It was disgustingly and disgracefully clear. She could either stay at the office for the rest of the day or go home, and it wouldn't make a bit of difference either way.

Odds were, no one would even know she had left, unless she stopped on the way out and made a point of telling someone. That was how often her phone rang.

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There were advantages to being the stepsister of the owner. Boredom, however, wasn't one of them. Being idle was excruciating for her. The time was swiftly approaching when she would have to kiss Robert's cheek, thank him for the thought, but politely decline to continue with this "job". Maybe she should even consider moving away. The West Coast, maybe.

Or Fiji. Robert didn't have any business concerns in Fiji. She unfolded the newspaper and leaned back in her chair with her feet propped on top of the desk and her ankles crossed. The decision would wait; she had been working on the problem for some time now, so it would still be there when she finished reading the paper. She loved out-of-town newspapers, especially the smaller ones, the weekly editions that were more folksy gossip-columns than anything else.

The Omaha newspaper was too large for that kind of coziness, but it still had a midwestern flavor to remind her that there was, indeed, a life outside New York City. The city was so large and complex that those who lived in it tended to be absorbed by it. She was constantly looking for windows on other ways of life, not because she disliked New York, but because she was so curious about everything.

She skipped over World Affairs — they were the same in Omaha as in New York — read Midwestern and local news, learning how the drought was affecting farmers and ranchers but creating a booming business for the slaughterhouses, and who had married or was intending to. She read the sale ads, compared the price of real estate in Omaha to that in New York, and was, as always, amazed at the difference. She was skipping around through the want ads when an ad in the personals caught her attention.

Must be of steady character, want children, and be able to work on ranch. Age 25 to 35 preferable. Madelyn was instantly diverted, her imagination caught by the ad, though she wasn't certain if she should be amused or outraged.

The man was practically advertising for a combination brood mare and ranch hand! On the other hand, he had been brutally honest about his expectations, which was oddly refreshing after some of the personal ads she'd seen in the New York newspapers and magazines. There had been none of that slick "Sensitive Aquarian needs a New-Age Nineties woman to explore the meaning of the universe with him" hypersell that told one nothing except that the writer had no concept of clarity in the written word.

What could be learned about the rancher from that ad, other than his honesty? His age could be anywhere from fifty on down, but since he wanted children she thought he would be younger — probably in his thirties or early forties. Also, that bit about children probably meant one could take the able-bodied part literally. If he wanted a wife of steady character, he probably wasn't a party animal, either.

He sounded like a sober, hardworking rancher who wanted a wife but didn't have the time to look for one. She had read an article several months ago about mail-order brides, and though she'd found it interesting, she had been put off by the impersonality of it all. It was evidently a big business, matching Oriental women with men in Western nations, but it wasn't limited to that; farmers and ranchers in the less-populated states had started advertising, simply because there were so few women in their areas.

There was even an entire magazine devoted to it. Really, this ad was the same in intent as the slick ads: The need was the same the world over, though it was often couched in more amusing or romantic terms.

And answering the ad was doing nothing more than agreeing to meet someone, like a blind date. It was a way of making contact. All relationships began with a first date, blind or otherwise. She folded the paper and wished she had something to do other than ponder the issue of social advertising. She could go upstairs and pound on Robert's desk, but that wouldn't accomplish anything. Robert didn't respond well to force; he wouldn't disturb the smooth running of his offices just to give her something to do.

He had offered her the job as a means of giving her a focus in life after losing both her mother and grandmother within a short length of time, but both of them knew that the job had outlived its purpose. Only an incurable optimism had kept her at it this long, hoping it would turn into something legitimate. If she pounded on Robert's desk, he would lean back in his chair and smile at her with his wickedly amused eyes, though his mouth seldom actually joined his eyes in celebration, and say, "The ball's in your court, babe.

Serve it or go home. The shock of grief had led to inertia, and inertia was even harder to handle, otherwise she would have left over two years ago. She picked up the newspaper and read the ad again. She wasn't that desperate. Was she? She needed a new job, a change of scenery, not a husband. On the other hand, she was twenty-eight, old enough to know that the swinging life wasn't for her.

Nor was city living, really, though she had lived in cities most of her life. As a child in Richmond, she had dearly loved the weekends when she had visited her grandmother in the country. Though it had been only a rural house, not an actual farm, she had still reveled in the peace and quiet, and longed for it when her mother had remarried and they had moved to New York. No, she wasn't desperate at all, but she was curious by nature and badly needed a diversion while she decided what sort of job she should look for, and where.

It was like a first date. If it clicked, then it clicked. She had nothing against Montana, and wouldn't that be a wild tale to tell her grandchildren, that she'd been a mail-order bride? If, as was far more likely, nothing came of it, then no harm had been done. She felt far safer answering an ad from a Montana rancher than she would one from a freestyle urbanite.

Feeling a bit exhilarated from the daring of it, she quickly rolled a sheet of paper into her topof-the-line electronic typewriter, wrote a reply to the ad, addressed an envelope, put a stamp on it and dropped it down the mail chute.

As soon as the silver metal flap swallowed the envelope, she felt a peculiar, hollow feeling in her stomach, as though she had done something incredibly stupid. On the other hand, she had had this same feeling the first time she'd gotten behind the wheel of a car. And when she'd ridden one of the super rollercoasters.

And when she'd gone to college, flown for the first time, and gone on her first date. This same feeling had accompanied almost every first in her life, but it had never been a forerunner of disaster. Instead she had thoroughly enjoyed all those firsts. Maybe that was a good sign. On the other hand Then she shrugged. It was nothing to worry about. The odds were that she would never hear from this Montana rancher.

After all, what could they have in common? What would anyone in New York know about life on a ranch? He was tempted to toss the letter into the trash; it would be a waste of his time to read it, just as this trip into Billings to pick up the mail had been a waste of time. Today there had been only this one response to his ad, and from New York, of all places. But the overall response to the ad hadn't been exactly overwhelming, so he might as well read it.

In fact, this was just the third answer he'd gotten. Guess there weren't too many women in the world anxious for life on a Montana ranch. The letter was short, and remarkable in the information it didn't give. Her name was Madelyn S. She was twenty-eight, had never been married, and was healthy, strong and willing to work. She hadn't sent a picture. She was the only one who hadn't. She was younger than the other two women who had responded; they were both in their thirties.

The schoolteacher was his age, and not bad to look at. The other woman was thirty-six, two years his senior, and had never worked at a paying job; she had remained at home to care for her invalid mother, who had recently died. She was plain, but not homely. Both of them would have far more realistic expectations of the vast, empty spaces and hard life on a ranch than this Madelyn S.

On the other hand, she might be some small-town girl who had moved to the big city and found she didn't like it. She must have read his ad in a hometown newspaper that had been mailed to her, because he sure as hell hadn't wasted his money placing it in the New York Times.

And he hadn't had so many responses that he could afford to ignore one. He would make the same arrangements with her that he'd made with the others, if she were still interested when he wrote to her. He tapped the folded letter against his thigh as he left the post office and walked to his pickup truck. This was taking up more time than he could truly afford.

He wanted to have everything settled by July, and it was already the middle of May. Six weeks. He wanted to find a wife within the next six weeks. Only nine days had passed since she had answered the ad, so he must have replied almost by return mail.

In those nine days she had convinced herself that he wouldn't answer at all. She sat down at her small dining table and ripped open the envelope. There was only one sheet inside. Miss Patterson, My name is Reese Duncan. I'm thirty-four years old, divorced, no children.

I own a ranch in central Montana. If you're still interested, I can see you two weeks from Saturday. Let me know by return mail. I'll send you a bus ticket to Billings. There was no closing salutation, only his signature, G. What did the G stand for? His handwriting was heavy, angular and perfectly legible, and there were no misspellings. Now she knew his name, age and that he was divorced.

He hadn't been real before; he had been only an anonymous someone who had placed an ad for a wife. Now he was a person.

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And a busy one, too, if he could only spare the time to see her on a Saturday over two weeks away! Madelyn couldn't help smiling at the thought. He certainly didn't give the impression of being so desperate for a wife that he had been forced to advertise.

Once again she had the distinct impression that he was simply too busy to look for one. He was divorced, the letter said, so perhaps he had lost his first wife precisely because he was so busy. She tapped the letter with her fingernails, studying the handwriting. She was intrigued, and becoming more so.

She wanted to meet this man. Patterson had answered promptly, which the other two hadn't; he had yet to hear from them. Reese opened her letter. Duncan, I will arrive in Billings on the designated date.

However, I can't allow you to pay for my travel expenses, as we are strangers and nothing may come of our meeting. My flight arrives at I trust that is convenient. Enclosed is a copy of my flight schedule. Please contact me if your plans change. His eyebrows rose. Well, well. So she preferred to fly instead of taking the bus.

A cynical smile twisted his mouth. Actually, so did he. He had even owned his own plane, but that had been B. His ex-wife had seen to it that it had been years since he'd been able to afford even an airline ticket, let alone his own plane. Part of him appreciated the fact that Ms. Patterson was sparing him the expense, but his hard, proud core resented the fact that he wasn't able to afford to send her an airline ticket himself. Hell, come to that, even the bus ticket would have put him in a bind this week.

Probably when she found out how broke he was, she'd leave so fast her feet would roll back the pavement. There was no way this woman would work out, but he might as well go through the motions to make certain. It wasn't as if applicants were beating down his door.

Madelyn invited Robert to dinner the Thursday before her Saturday flight to Montana, knowing that he would have a date on Friday night, and she wanted to talk to him alone. He arrived promptly at eight and walked to her small liquor cabinet, where he poured himself a hefty Scotch and water. He lifted the glass to her, and as always his eyes smiled without his mouth joining in.

Madelyn lifted her wineglass in return. He arched his elegant dark brows. Madelyn was closer to him than anyone; his father had married her mother when she was ten and he sixteen, which should have been too great an age difference for any real closeness, but Robert had unaccountably taken the time to make her feel welcome in her new home, to talk to her and listen in return.

Together they had weathered first the death of his father, then, five years later, that of her mother; most stepsiblings probably would have drifted apart after that, but they hadn't, because they truly liked each other as friends as well as brother and sister.

Robert was a true enigma: Madelyn was unique in that she even knew that core existed. No one else had ever seen that much of him. In the years since he had inherited the Cannon Companies, he had reshaped the various enterprises and made them even larger and richer than before.

An enormous amount of power rested in his lean hands, but not even the Cannon empire seemed to reach that private center of him. The inner man was a citadel, inviolate.

It was as if he kept himself leashed, his fires banked. Women flocked around him, of course, but he was particular in his bed partners and preferred monogamy to musical beds. When he chose a particular woman friend, they were usually together for at least a year, and he was entirely faithful to her for as long as the affair lasted. One of his ex-amours had gotten drunk and cried on Madelyn's shoulder at a party shortly after Robert had ended their affair, sobbing that she would never be able to love another man because how could anyone compare to Robert?

The woman's drunken confession had, so far, been pathetically accurate; she had drifted into a couple of affairs, but both of them had been short-lived, and since then she had stopped dating entirely. Now he was watching Madelyn with his amused eyes, and after a minute she answered her own question. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, you're an enigma inside a puzzle wrapped in a riddle, or some such complicated drivel.

He tasted the Scotch, savoring the smoky bite of it. Madelyn gave him an angelic look that deepened the amused expression in his eyes. He followed her, and without hesitation began helping her carry the food to the table. Basically, as you said, it's time. She smiled as she poured wine into their glasses. There's a possibility of matrimony. Forty percent chance of matrimony? I won't know until I meet the man. Madelyn watched him with interest.

It was one of the very few times when she could say she had seen Robert actually surprised. He said, very carefully, "Do you mean you haven't met him yet? We've corresponded, but we've never actually met. And we might not like each other in person. There's only a very small chance of matrimony, actually.

In weather terms, no accumulation expected. I wanted you to know. I know a little about him, but not much. Madelyn took pity on him and ladled the thick, spicy sauce over his pasta before it grew cold, since it looked as if he had totally forgotten about it. She nodded and turned her attention to her own plate. You wouldn't panic if I'd told you I'd met someone at a singles bar in Manhattan, and that's a lot riskier than meeting a rancher from Montana.

What if this man is abusive? What if he has a criminal record, or is a con man? Just how much do you know about him? He owns a ranch in central Montana, and he's divorced, no children. I've been writing to a box number in Billings.

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She also knew that he would have Reese Duncan thoroughly investigated; she thought of protesting, but decided that it wouldn't make any difference. By the time Robert had his report, she would already have met Mr. Duncan and formed her own opinion. She could even see why Robert felt alarmed and protective, though she didn't agree that there was any need for it. Duncan's blunt correspondence had reassured her that this was a man who dealt in the unvarnished truth and didn't give a damn how it looked or sounded.

It was relaxing not to have to gauge the sincerity of a come-on line. Madelyn was as curious as a cat, in her own lazy way.

She didn't scurry around poking her nose into every new detail that came her way, but she would eventually get around to investigating any subject or situation that intrigued her.

He could see where an ad for a wife would have been irresistible to her; once she had read it, it would have been a foregone conclusion that she had to meet the man for herself. If there was no way he could talk her out of going, he could make certain she wouldn't be in danger. Before she got on that plane, he would know if this Reese Duncan had any sort of criminal record, even so much as a parking ticket.

If there was any indication that Madelyn wouldn't be perfectly safe, he would keep her off the flight if he had to sit on her. As if she'd read his mind, she leaned forward. She had that angelic expression again, the one that made him wary. When Madelyn was angelic, she was either blisteringly angry or up to mischief, and he could never tell which until it was too late. She never bluffed, never threatened unless she was prepared to carry through on her threats.

Without a word, Robert tugged his white handkerchief out of his pocket and waved it in surrender. Chapter 2 The flight was a bit early landing in Billings. Madelyn carefully scrutinized the small group of people waiting to greet those leaving the plane, but she didn't see any lone males who appeared to be looking for her. She took a deep breath, glad of the small reprieve. She was unexpectedly nervous.

She used the time to duck into the ladies' room; when she came out, she heard her name being called in a tinny voice. Madelyn Patterson, please meet your party at the Information desk. She liked the feeling of excitement.

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The moment was finally at hand. Anticipation and curiosity were killing her. She walked with an easy stride that was more of a stroll than anything else, despite her excitement. Her eyes were bright with pleasure. The Billings airport, with its big fountain, was more attractive than the general run of airports, and she let the surroundings begin to soothe her. She was only a little nervous now, and even that small bit wasn't revealed. That must be him, leaning against the Information desk.

He was wearing a hat, so she couldn't see his face all that well, but he was trim and fit. A smile quirked her mouth. This was a truly impossible situation. A real wild goose chase. They would meet, be polite, spend a polite day together; then tomorrow she would shake his hand and tell him she had enjoyed the visit, and that would be the end of it.

It would all be very civil and low-keyed, just the way she liked — He straightened from his relaxed position against the desk and turned toward her. Madelyn felt his eyes focus on her and grow intent. She knew the meaning of the word poleaxed, but this was the first time she had ever experienced the feeling.

Her lazy walk faltered, then stopped altogether. She stood frozen in the middle of the airport, unable to take another step. This had never happened to her before, this total loss of composure, but she was helpless. She felt stunned, as if she'd been kicked in the chest. Her heart was racing now, pounding out a painful rhythm. Her breath came in short, shallow gasps; her carry-on bag slipped out of her fingers and landed on the floor with a soft thud.

She felt like a fool, but didn't really care. She couldn't stop staring at him. It was just old-fashioned lust, that was all. It couldn't be anything else, not at first sight. She felt panic at the very idea that it could be anything else. Just lust. He wasn't the most handsome man she'd ever seen, because New York was full of gorgeous men, but it didn't matter. In all the ways that did matter, all the primitive, instinctual ways, call it chemistry or electricity or biology or whatever, he was devastating.

The man oozed sex. Every move he made was imbued with the sort of sensuality and masculinity that made her think of sweaty skin and twisted sheets. Dear God, why on earth should this man ever have had to advertise for a wife? He was at least six-three, and muscled with the iron, layered strength of a man who does hard physical labor every day of his life. He was very tanned, and his hair, what she could see of it under his hat, was dark brown, almost black. His jaw was strongly shaped, his chin square, his mouth clear-cut and bracketed by twin grooves.

He hadn't dressed up to meet her, but was wearing a plain white shirt with the cuffs unbuttoned and rolled back, ancient jeans and scuffed boots. She found herself frantically concentrating on the details of his appearance while she tried to deal with the havoc he was wreaking on her senses, all without saying a word.

None of her excited imaginings had prepared her for this. What was a woman supposed to do when she finally met the man who turned her banked coals into a roaring inferno?

Madelyn's first thought was to run for her life, but she couldn't move. Reese's first thought was that he'd like to take her to bed, but there was no way he'd take her to wife.

She was everything he'd been afraid she would be: It was obvious from the top of her silky blond head down to the tips of her expensive shoes. She was wearing white, not the most practical color for travel, but she was immaculate, without even a wrinkle to mar her appearance. Her skirt was pencil-slim and stopped just above her knees, revealing knockout legs. Reese felt his guts tighten, just looking at her legs. He wrenched his gaze upward with an effort that almost hurt and was struck by her eyes.

Beneath the loose, matching jacket she was wearing a skimpy top in a rich blue color that should have made her eyes look blue, but didn't. Her eyes made him feel as if he were drowning. They were gray, very gray, without a tinge of blue. Soft-looking eyes, even now when they were large with He wasn't certain of the expression, but belatedly he realized that she was very pale and still, and that she'd dropped her bag.

He stepped forward, seizing on the excuse to touch her. He curved his hand around her upper arm, which felt cool and slim under his warm palm. Miss Patterson? How could such a small thing produce such an upheaval?

His closeness brought with it the animal heat of his body, the scent of him, and she wanted to simply turn into his arms and bury her face against his neck.

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Panic welled up in her. She had to get out of here, away from him. She hadn't bargained on this. But instead of running, she called on all her reserves of control and even managed to smile as she held out her hand. He shook her hand, noting the absence of jewelry except for the plain gold hoops in her ears. He didn't like to see a woman's hands weighted down with rings on every finger, especially when the hands were as slim as hers.

He didn't release her as he repeated, "Are you all right? What could she say? That she'd been stunned by a sudden surge of lust for him? It was the truth, but one that couldn't be voiced. She knew she should be charming to ease the awkwardness of this meeting, but somehow she couldn't summon up the superficial chatter to gloss things over. She could do nothing but stand there. They faced each other like gunfighters on a dirt street, oblivious to the eddies of people stepping around their small, immobile island.

He was watching her from beneath level brows, taking his time with his survey but keeping his thoughts hidden. Madelyn stood still, very aware of her femaleness as he looked her up and down with acutely masculine appraisal, though he revealed neither appreciation nor disapproval.

His thoughts were very much his own, his face that of an intensely private man. Even shadowed by his hat brim as they were, she could tell that his eyes were a dark greenblue-hazel color, shot through with white striations that made them gleam.

They were wrinkled at the outer corners from what must have been years of squinting into the sun, because he sure didn't look as if he'd gotten those lines from laughing. His face was stern and unyielding, making her long to see how he'd look if he smiled, and wonder if he had ever been carefree.

This man wasn't a stranger to rough times or hard work. It was a long drive back to the ranch, and he was impatient to be on the way. Chores had to be done no matter how late he got back. His voice was a baritone, a bit gravelly. Madelyn registered the rough texture of it even as she nodded toward the carry-on bag.

Of course, she would impress him most without any wardrobe at all. He bent down to lift the carry-on, still keeping his hand on her arm. She was pure, walking provocation, totally unsuitable for ranch life, but every male hormone in him was clanging alert signals.

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She was only going to be here for a day; why shouldn't he enjoy being with her? It would be sort of a last fling before settling down with someone better prepared for the job, and job it would be. Ranching was hard work, and Madelyn Patterson didn't look as if she had ever been exposed to the concept.

Right now, though, he didn't mind, because she was so damn enticing and he was dead tired of the relentless months — years — of sixteen-hour days and back-breaking work. He would take her out to eat tonight, after his chores were done; maybe they'd go to Jasper's for some dancing, and he'd hold her in his arms for a while, feel the softness of her skin, smell her perfume. Who knew, maybe when they went back to the ranch it wouldn't be to separate beds. He'd have to be up front in telling her that she wasn't right for the job, so there wouldn't be any misunderstanding, but maybe it wouldn't make any difference to her.

His hand naturally moved from her arm to her back as he led her out of the terminal. Deliberately he set about charming her, something he had once done with women as effortlessly as he had smiled. Those days were far in the past, but the touch remained. She chatted easily, thank God, asking questions about Montana, and he answered them just as easily, letting her relax and get comfortable with him, and all the while he studied her face and expressions. Strictly speaking, she was merely pretty, but her face was lit by a liveliness that made her stunningly attractive.

Her nose had a slight bump in it and was just a tiny bit crooked. A light dusting of freckles covered the bridge of it and scattered across her cheekbones, which were exquisitely chiseled.

World-class cheekbones, just like her legs. Her lips weren't full, but her mouth was wide and mobile, as if she were forever on the verge of smiling.

Her eyes were the grayest eyes he'd ever seen. They were calm, sleepy eyes that nevertheless revealed on closer inspection an alert and often amused intelligence, though he didn't see what she found so amusing. If he'd met her before his rotten marriage and disastrous divorce, he would have gone after her like gangbusters, and gotten her, too, by God.

Just the thought of those legs wrapped around his waist brought him to instant, uncomfortable arousal. No way, though, would he let his gonads lead him into another unsuitable marriage. He knew what he wanted in a wife, and Madelyn wasn't it. She didn't look as if she'd ever even seen a steer.

None of that decreased his physical response to her one whit. He'd been attracted to a lot of women at first sight, but not like this, not like a slam in the gut. This wasn't just attraction, a mild word to describe a mild interest; this was strong and wrenching, flooding his body with heat, making him grow hard even though he sure as hell didn't want to here in the middle of the airport.

His hands actually hurt from wanting to touch her, to smooth over her breast and hip in a braille investigation of those sleek curves. He felt a twinge of regret that she was so out of place, so totally unsuitable for his purposes.

Walking beside her, he saw the sidelong glances that other men were giving her. Women like her just naturally attracted male speculation, and he wished he could afford to keep her, but she was too expensive for him. Reese was broke now, but at one time he had been accustomed to money; he knew how it looked and smelled and tasted, and how it fit.

It fit Madelyn Patterson as perfectly as her silky skin did. She was slim and bright in her Paris-made suit, and the perfume sweetened by her warm flesh cost over two hundred dollars an ounce. He knew because it was one of his favorites. He couldn't even afford to keep her in perfume, much less clothes. Those terse little letters she'd written hadn't revealed much. She made a face, wrinkling her nose.

It's one of those jobs made for family. But her racing pulse told her that if he asked, she'd be packed and moved in with him so fast he'd think she owned her own moving company. He dismissed any riding she might have done.

Recreational riding was a far cry from riding a workhorse, and that was what his horses were, trained and as valuable in their own way as a racehorse. It was just one more area where she didn't measure up. They reached his truck, and he watched to see if she turned up her nose at it, as dusty and battered as it was. She didn't blink an eye, just stood to the side while he unlocked the door and placed her bag on the middle of the seat.

Then he stepped back for her to get in. Madelyn tried to seat herself and found that she couldn't. An astonished expression crossed her face; then she began to laugh as she realized her skirt was too tight. She couldn't lift her legs enough to climb up on the seat.

Heat exploded through him, making him feel as if his entire body were expanding. The thought flashed through his mind that he wouldn't be able to stand it if she pulled that skirt up one more inch, and in the next split second his hands shot out, catching her around the waist and lifting her onto the seat. She gave a startled little cry at his abrupt movement and grabbed his forearms to brace herself.

His mouth was dry, and sweat beaded on his forehead. His pulse was throbbing through him. She had the best legs he'd ever seen, long and strong, with sleek muscles. She'd be able to lock them around him and hang on, no matter how wild the ride. Madelyn couldn't speak. Tension stretched between them, heavy and dark.

Fierce, open lust burned in his narrowed eyes, and she couldn't look away, caught in the silent intensity. She was still gripping his forearms, and she felt the heat of his arms, the steely muscles bunched iron-hard under her fingers. Her heart lurched at the sharp realization that he felt some of the turmoil she had been feeling. She began babbling an apology. I didn't intend — that is, I didn't realize — " She stopped, because she couldn't come right out and say that she hadn't meant to arouse him.

No matter how she reacted to him, he was still essentially a stranger. He looked down at her legs, with the skirt still halfway up them, and his hands involuntarily tightened on her waist before he forced himself to release her. It's all right," he muttered. His voice was still hoarse. It wasn't all right. Every muscle in his body was tight. He stepped back before he could give in to the impulse to move forward instead, putting himself between her legs and opening them wider.

All he would have to do would be to slide his hands under the skirt to push it up the rest of the way — He crushed the thought, because if he'd let himself finish it, his control would have shattered. If you are, there's a cafe at the crossroads up ahead. She was used to enormous buildings, but suddenly they seemed puny in comparison with this endless expanse of earth and sky.

It made her feel both insignificant and fresh, as if her life were just starting now. It'll take us almost three hours to get there. She hadn't realized how much effort it was for him to come to Billings to meet her.

Right now, it looked better than it had in a long time. He was still flat broke, but he could see daylight now. The banker had been pleased. Madelyn looked at him with concern darkening her gray eyes. I'm up before dawn every day. It must be wonderful. He could remember how spectacular the dawns were, but it had been a long while since he'd had the time to notice one. I know for a fact that there are dawns in New York, too. I see sunsets, not dawns. The only dawn they would have in common would be the next day.

She wasn't the woman he would choose for a wife. He reached into his shirt pocket and got out the pack of cigarettes that always resided there, shaking one free and drawing it the rest of the way out with his lips.

As he dug in his jeans pocket for his lighter he heard her say incredulously, "You smoke! From the tone of her voice you would have thought she had caught him kicking puppies, or something else equally repulsive. He lit the cigarette and blew smoke into the cab. Madelyn faced forward again. I just hate to see anyone smoking.

It's like playing Russian roulette with your life. It's my life. Great going, she thought. That's a good way to get to know someone, attack his personal habits. It just startled me. People smoke. Or don't you associate with anyone who smokes? Some of our clients smoke, but none of my personal friends do. I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, and she was very old-fashioned about the vices. I was taught never to swear, smoke or drink spirits.

I've never smoked," she said righteously. Despite his irritation, he found himself trying not to laugh. Her eyes twinkled at him.

During my college days, I also swilled beer. Not bad odds. Sometimes you bust, sometimes you break the house. Otherwise, Madelyn thought, why would she be sitting here in a pickup truck, in the process of falling in love with a stranger?

The paint on the house was badly chipped and peeling, and the outbuildings were even worse. Long ago he'd given up trying to keep the yard neat and had finally destroyed the flowerbeds that had once delineated the house, because they had been overrun with weeds.

In the past seven years nothing new had been added, and nothing broken had been replaced, except for the absolute necessities. Parts for the truck and tractor had come before house paint. Taking care of the herd had been more important than cutting the grass or weeding the flowerbeds. Sheer survival hadn't left time for the niceties of life.

He'd done what he'd had to do, but that didn't mean he had to like the shape his home was in. He hated for Madelyn to see it like this, when it had once been, if not a showplace, a house no woman would have been ashamed of.

Madelyn saw the peeling paint, but dismissed it; after all, it wasn't anything that a little effort and several gallons of paint wouldn't fix. What caught her attention was the shaded porch, complete with swing, that wrapped all the way around the two-story house. Grandma Lily had had a porch like that, and a swing where they had whiled away many a lazy summer day to the accompaniment of the slow creak of the chains as they gently swayed.

He opened her door and put his hands on her waist, lifting her out of the truck before she could slide to the ground. Startled all over again, she quickly looked up at him. Her pulse began thudding again. He reached inside the truck and hooked her carry-on bag with one hand, then took her arm with the other.

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They entered by the back door, which was unlocked. She was struck by the fact that he felt safe in not locking his door when he was going to be gone all day. The back door opened into a combination mudroom and laundry.

A washer and dryer lined the wall to the left, and the right wall bristled with pegs from which hung an assortment of hats, coats, ponchos and bright yellow rain slickers. A variety of boots, most of them muddy, were lined up on a rubber mat. Straight ahead and across a small hall was a full bathroom, which she realized would be convenient when he came in muddy from head to foot.

He could take a bath without tracking mud or dripping water all through the house to the bathroom upstairs. They turned left and were in the kitchen, a big, open, sunny room with a breakfast nook.

Madelyn looked with interest at the enormous appliances, which didn't fit her image of what the kitchen of a small-scale, bachelor rancher should look like. She had expected something smaller and much more old-fashioned than this efficient room with its institutional-sized appliances. I grew up here.

I want to pass it on to my own children. The thought of having his children weakened her. He opened a door directly across from the top of the stairs and ushered her into a large, pleasant bedroom with white curtains at the windows and a white bedspread on the four-poster bed. She made a soft sound of pleasure. Today, developing the online book becomes very increasingly. The content of this book is very good. This book is available in this website with simple word. It makes many people from many different countrieseasy to read and know the meaning of the content in this online book.

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