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If you’ve been following me for long, you know my cowboys have a special place in my heart. Down in Texas was a labor of love from start to finish. Much of the description came from my own personal observations from my life in Texas. Enjoy! And good luck!
Recommended Read from Joyfully Reviewed: “…HOT! HOT! HOT!…All I wanted was more, so I read DOWN IN TEXAS again, enjoying it for a second time…DOWN IN TEXAS is now a book in my permanent re-read pile…”
5 Blue Ribbons from Romance Junkies: “Delilah Devlin’s DOWN IN TEXAS is a fabulous anthology that kept my attention throughout each and every story…The stories are all special in their own right but together they’re truly spectacular…Ms. Devlin has proved herself a capable storyteller before but with DOWN IN TEXAS she’s cemented a place on my ‘most watched authors’ list.”
5 Angels and Recommended Read from Fallen Angels Reviews: “…one of the most decadent reads of the year for me…Delilah never fails to deliver on any front, and this is just another testament to an extraordinary writer. As always, I look forward to more of her extraordinary novels…”
4 Stars fom RT BOOKreviews: “Devlin delivers in this anthology of love in the Lone Star State… This is a good, hot and sexy read.”
From erotica superstar Delilah Devlin comes a sizzling hot story about a little town in Texas called Honkytonk, where the women get exactly what they want…and the men know just how to give it to them.
Wearing His Brand
Lyssa McDonough just got tangled up in a coil of barbed wire, and her clothes are ripped to shreds. Rancher Brandon Tynan to the rescue—but why is she so ornery? Could it be that the whole state of Texas isn’t big enough for the two of them? Hell, they’ll still have to share one horse to get home, Lyssa better hang on tight—she’s in for the wildest ride of her life…
Maggie Dermott doesn’t know the first thing about horses and Daniel Tynan is more than willing to show her the ropes. His gentle ways melt her heart and his sensual passion burns away her inhibitions. Daniel takes the time to love her right.
Straight Up Soldier
Suki Reece needs protection and she can see that Mac McDonough has the muscle. Too bad he can’t stand taking orders from a woman. The rugged ex-Marine won’t listen to a word she says until Suki distracts him with a sexy striptease. That gets his attention. Suki may have gotten the upper hand but Mac is going to be on top…
Her daddy had always told her a man’s worth wasn’t measured by the size of his bank account or the square footage of his house. Rather, it could be seen in the proud set of his shoulders or a gaze that didn’t waiver.
Her mama had said a man’s strength was in his hands—strong and soothing when an animal or a child needed comfort—hot and wild when a woman needed shaking up.
Looking at Brand now, Lyssa McDonough knew exactly what they’d both meant.
If she had any sense at all she’d turn tail and run. Everything about the man screamed heartbreaker.
Only she couldn’t. Instead, she settled her shoulder against the fence post, kept her breaths shallow and even, and pretended she wasn’t melting inside.
As long as she could remember, Brand had that effect on her—long before she admitted, even to herself, how much he moved her. Today, dressed in a wash-softened chambray shirt that stretched across his broad chest, blue jeans that hugged lean hips, and leather chaps encasing thick thighs, he was the embodiment of any woman’s favorite cowboy fantasy.
Once again, she wished she affected him the same way—that just looking at her made him breathless. Only the sight she presented him this moment would never inspire lust.
Covered in dust and sweat, with hair straggling from the confines its rubber band, she was grimy, bloody, and anything but attractive.
Too far away to read his expression, she watched how he stood in the stirrups as he topped the hill, head turning to scan the countryside. When his gaze landed on her, his back stiffened, he settled into his saddle, and his boots spurred his horse to bring him fast down the hill.
Things could have turned out worse.
The day might have broken with a cloudless, blue sky and a white-hot sun beating relentlessly on her unprotected face. Early summer in southwest Texas could be ruthless, but thick gray clouds had gathered, shielding her from the worst of the heat. Still, she was thirsty, and her canteen was deep in the satchel of the horse that had to be halfway back to the ranch house by now.
She might not have worn the industrial-padded bra that was the only thing keeping one nasty barb from tearing the tender flesh of her breast like the other that pierced the back of her shoulder. The pointed barb only pricked, a reminder not to take deeper breaths. Vanity had guided her choice. She’d chosen the thick-cupped bra hoping she’d see him today, hoping he’d finally take a closer look and realize she was more than his best friend’s little sister.
More than an obligation he’d accepted.
The promise he’d made was the crux of her problem with Brandon Tynan.
Lyssa dragged away her gaze and readied herself for what she knew was coming. Again, she stretched the toe of her boot toward the wire cutters she’d dropped when she’d first felt the tension in the wire ease and heard it “sing” as it snapped from a post farther down the fence.
The wire had coiled so fast she’d had time only to spit out the bent nails she’d held between her teeth. It snagged her, pulling her off her feet, and wrapped around her. The merciless wire trapped her arms against her sides and her shoulder against the post she’d been securing new strands of barbed wire to replace the cut ones.
When the barb atop her left breast bit deeper, she gritted her teeth and sagged against the post. Brand would have to get her out of her current coil.
Damn. The man loved rubbing her nose in her mistakes.
Hooves thundered closer. She wiped the pain-filled grimace from her face and turned to meet his steady gaze as he reined in his horse.
Brand slipped from the saddle as soon as Ranger slid to a stop, kicking up a cloud of dust.
Because she couldn’t tilt her head higher as he approached, she watched his booted feet eat the distance between them.
He knelt on one knee beside her and tipped his hat off his head to hang from the stampede string knotted at his throat. His gaze raked her body once, before locking with hers.
Inwardly, she braced herself. His expression was darker than the thunderheads building in the sky above them. “Lyssa, didn’t I tell you not to ride the fence alone?”
She blinked at the raw tension in his deep, rumbling voice, then felt her eyebrows draw together in a fierce scowl. “I’ve been mending fences all my life. I didn’t need any help. This was just pure bad luck.”
“We’re gonna talk about this, soon as I get you free.”
“Damn you, Brand.” Furious tears burned the back of her eyes, but she blinked them back. “No ‘Are you all right? Are you thirsty?’—no, you have to start in—”
“Fuck.” He scrubbed his deeply tanned face with the back of a leather glove before meeting her gaze again. “Are you okay?”
She sniffed, wishing she could reach up and rub her nose. “Too late.”
“I was worried. The hands said you’d been gone a long time. When I found your horse…” He took a deep breath, and his gaze slid to the clouds overhead.
Only slightly mollified with his non-apology, she sighed, letting the anger slide away and glaring at the wire doubled around her torso. “Just cut me loose.”
“Don’t think I can,” he said softly.
She shot him an irritated glance. “The cutters are at my feet…” Her voice faded as she stared.
Brand’s expression had lost its angry tension. Sure, a muscle flexed along his square jaw, but his dark brown eyes held a tenderness she’d never observed.
Before she had a moment to ponder what it meant, he stood and unbuttoned his shirt, tugging it from the waist of his jeans.
She’d seen his tanned, bared chest before, drooled over the smattering of black-brown hair that stretched between his small, male nipples and sighed when imagining herself lightly stroking her fingertips along the thick slabs of muscle filling out his masculine chest and shoulders.
Her breath caught, pushing her breast against the barb. Air hissed between her teeth.
He bent quickly. “Don’t move, I’m gonna slide this under the wire. Let me know if I hurt you.”
Lyssa held her breath as his hand slipped between her breasts and under the wire. Slowly, he pressed against the thickly padded material cupping a meager curve, working his way toward the barb, and then he pulled it away from her, sliding the bunched shirt under the wire.
Lyssa ground her teeth as the prongs embedded in her shoulder cut deeper.
“I’m hurting you. Where next?”
“Behind my shoulder,” she bit out.
Brand crawled over her sprawled legs and circled behind her. “Damn, you’re bleeding.”
She opened her mouth to deliver her usual caustic “duh”, but clamped her mouth shut, not wanting to spoil the tender moment stretching between them. “I’m all right. It just stings.”
“I can’t pad it. I’ll have to cut the wire to get it out.”
“Thanks for the warning,” she murmured.
He leaned to grab the wire cutters. “I’ll make it quick.”
“Just do it.”
A snip drove the barb deeper. Lyssa squeezed her eyes shut as Brand pulled it out. Two more snips and he dragged away the rest of the wire, before kneeling beside her once again.
Lyssa dropped her head and dragged in deep trembling breaths. Her shoulder and breast burned like fire, but the ordeal was over now.
A large broad palm entered her line of vision. “Let’s get you home and have a look at that shoulder.”
She accepted the hand he extended and almost groaned with relief when another gripped her waist to lift her to her feet. She felt weak as a baby, and her legs tingled as blood rushed back into cramped limbs.
“Can you walk?”
She flashed him an incredulous look and shook off the hand around her waist. When the one gripping her hand tightened, she didn’t fight him, just let him lead her slowly toward his horse.
“Anyone ever tell you you’re as stubborn as an old mule?” he said, reaching for the canteen looped around his saddle horn.
She let go of his hand and accepted the canteen, giving the cap a twist. “You. More times than I can count.”
A small, tight smile stretched one side of his mouth as he stared while she upended the canteen and let the water spill into her mouth. She didn’t care when it trickled along her cheek and down her neck.
“Slow down,” he said, “You’ll be sick.”
Because he was right, and more so, because a sudden weariness sapped her strength, she didn’t argue. She handed back the canteen and waited while he stowed it and his bloodied shirt in a saddlebag and gathered the tools strewn on the ground.
When he came back to her side, he handed her the hat she’d lost. “Hold this.” Then he gripped her waist and lifted her gently over the saddle. He settled her sideways, the horn between her thighs, and then stepped up, sliding into his seat behind her.
She’d never been this close before. The juncture of his thighs pressed against the side of her hip. If she leaned, her cheek would lie against bare skin.
Suddenly, she felt unsettled. Her stomach tightened. She hoped the water she’d drunk wasn’t getting ready to rush back up. When his arm gently encircled her waist, she jerked at the intimate touch.
“Rest against me,” he said, his voice deepening. “I won’t jostle you as much.”
Lyssa knew he was probably just being kind as she relaxed against him and fought against her rising excitement. She slid an arm around his waist to hold on as he nudged his horse forward, noting she felt no softness, just hard muscle clothed in skin smooth as oiled leather.
Snuggling her cheek against him, she enjoyed the feel of the soft, swirling hairs that furred his chest and inhaled the smell of the man who’d filled her head with lustful thoughts since she’d reached puberty.
His scent—plain soap and his unique musk—filled her nostrils, calming her thudding heart. Another, deeper inhalation and she let her body rock in the saddle with his as he kept his horse at a slow, even gait.
Even though her wounds ached, she was over being sorry she’d landed in such a mess. She’d wanted him to notice her.
Things could have turned out worse.
* * *
Brand gritted his teeth and tried to calm the riot of feelings flooding his body. Every rocking movement made him aware of just what part of his body was rubbing against her slim hip. His cock crowded tighter by the minute against the fly of his jeans.
The way she sat snuggled up against him, her soft cheek sliding on his skin, her slim fingers clutching his waist—he wished he could give Ranger his head to race toward the ranch house so he could dump her sweet body on the porch and end the torment.
With one smart-mouth comment, Lyssa could trigger his anger faster than fire licking at dry prairie grass. However, the sight of her mouth tightened with pain had shot an arrow straight through his heart.
Worse, horned toad that he was, the trembling of her full bottom lip—and the tears glittering in her wide green eyes as he’d cut away the wire—had sent his thoughts straight south.
Not for the first time, he’d wished he could gather her in his arms and soothe away all her worries, ease all her hurts. But he knew where that would lead. One intimate, tender touch and he’d be a goner—his promise as empty as the wide-open spaces stretching in front of them.
Brand wanted to soothe his own aches while sinking every inch of his cock into Lyssa McDonough’s silky depths.
However, Lyssa wasn’t a woman he could play with and leave. She was his best friend’s sister. Before Mac’s reserve unit had been mobilized, he’d extracted Brand’s promise to make sure she stayed safe. Watching over the woman didn’t include sleeping with her—no matter how tempting her sexy little body was, or how much she might want to experiment.
He’d have to be blind not to note how her gaze followed him. How curiosity gleamed in her eyes or colored her cheeks whenever they were together. Over the years, deflecting her interest had become a natural habit.
Brand had learned to use her anger to protect himself from his own growing attraction. He gave her a narrowed glance. “What do you think you were doing, riding alone?”
She stiffened in his arms, eyes flashing.
Brand tightened his grip on her waist, not wanting her to harm herself, all the while acutely aware his thumb rode the bottom edge of her bra.
“A load of hay’s coming. I needed most of the hands to unload the trailer.”
“Why didn’t you call me?” he growled.
“Who made you my keeper?”
His glare intensified. “Mac did. You know it.”
“I don’t need a babysitter.”
“What happened to the fence?”
She bristled with tension, and he suppressed a grim smile. Lyssa was predictable.
“Someone cut it.”
“Third time in a month. Don’t you think that warrants a little caution?” She stayed silent so long, he knew she agreed, but was searching for a plausible excuse for today’s actions.
“I’m not missing any cattle.”
“Maybe they’re scoping out the place first. Or maybe it’s not rustlers. We’re damn close to the border.”
Her head tilted back. “You think it might be smugglers?”
“Could be. Reason enough to take precautions.”
“I carry a rifle.”
“Oh?” he said, letting his gaze slide over her body. “Where’s it now?”
Her eyebrows drew into a testy frown. “With my horse.”
Brand sighed. “Lyssa, we’ve got to come to an understanding. You’re gonna take my advice.”
“Or what?” Lyssa asked, a new, sultry note entering her voice. “What are you gonna do? Spank me?” Her hips wiggled against him.
Shock at her drawled suggestion had him sucking in a deep breath. A vision of Lyssa, her naked body draped over his knees, made his dick pulse. “Would you like that?” he asked softly.
“Maybe, I would,” she whispered, lowering her eyelids halfway.
His gaze dropped to her mouth as pink lips opened around a gasp.
“I can’t believe I just said that. To you.”
He narrowed his eyes. “It slipped kinda easy from your lips. Someone else you been teasing, baby-girl?”
“I don’t tease.”
Brand ground his teeth at the solemn promise in her eyes. “Juanita at your house?”
Her head shook and tendrils of wild, red hair moved around her face. “She’s in town, doing some shopping.”
He swore softly and pointed his horse west.
“Thought you were taking me home.”
“I am. My home.”
“But we’re closer to mine.”
“You want Hector or Santiago cleanin’ you up?”
Her chin lifted. “I’ll manage on my own.”
“What about your shoulder?”
Her breath huffed, but a moment later, she whispered, “So, you’re gonna do it?”
The small, feminine smile beginning to curve her lips had him tightening like a bowstring. “I’ll tend your wounds, then I’m drivin’ you straight home.”
“Whatever you say.”
“Now, you’re all agreeable,” he grumbled, pretending an irritation totally at war with the anticipation building in his body.
“I’m not unreasonable. Makes sense,” she said breathlessly. “You tending my wounds. Nothing Mac wouldn’t have done.”
Shit. If Mac knew the thoughts running through his mind, he’d string him up by his balls. Brand pulled up to the gate between the two properties and leaned down to unlatch it. “Like I said, after we’re done I’m takin’ you straight home.”