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People protect themselves in different ways. Sometimes, it’s through silence—if you never attempt to connect, you won’t be hurt. Sometimes, it’s through a clever quip—something stinging or so clever it makes potential mates back away. In this scene you have have both.
“A FOUR-GONE CONCLUSION is a prime example on how a novella should be written; fast and fun, touching characters that pull you in and a story that is completely fulfilling.”
4.5 Cherries, Long and Short Reviews
One devilish night…or a chance at heaven?
Sam Logan’s foster sons have a bad rep in Two Mule, Texas. Most of it earned. When it becomes clear they don’t plan on giving up scootin’ after ever pretty pair of boots in town anytime soon, he issues the one thing he knows they can’t resist: a challenge. Find a wife.
The oldest, Johnny, is actually grateful. He’s had his eye on Mean Ellie Harker for a long time, and Sam’s challenge is the kick in the pants he needed to ask her out. Except before he can make his move, his brothers kidnap her right out from under his nose. Now, instead of being one question away from victory, he has to compete for the woman of his dreams.
Ellie thought she’d be a dried up old spinster before Johnny finally untangled his tongue long enough to ask for a date. But instead of teaching him better uses for that tongue, his brothers have whisked her away to the ranch. At first she’s furious…then intrigued when she starts to wonder what it might be like…
Warning: Four handsome cowboys. Four choices. Would it be a single sordid night or a chance at heaven as she savors every luscious inch of the Logan brothers?
“I could help you, you know,” Killian said, his tone casual.
Too casual. Johnny grunted. “With what?”
“Gettin’ you a wife.”
His hands tightened on the steering wheel. “Worry about findin’ your own.”
“It’s not how it works, bro. We’re brothers.”
“We’re not blood.”
“Blood’s not what counts.”
Which was a sorry damn truth they all knew too well. Blood had failed them all.
Johnny cussed under his breath. “How would you help? You gonna chat her up for me? You gonna tell her what a catch I am?”
“Well, you are. You stand to inherit a fourth of the Double Tree. And I’ve seen the way women look at you.”
“You’re not a bad lookin’ guy.
Johnny aimed a blistering glare his way. “You gonna ask me out?”
Killian grinned. “Just statin’ the facts. You’re not hard on the eyes. And you’re tall. Girls like that. And they like your hair. They like you fine until you give ’em that thousand-yard stare like you’re sightin’ down a rifle barrel.”
Johnny gave him his meanest glare. “This isn’t gonna work.”
Killian gave a waggle of his eyebrows. “I’ll help. What’re brothers for?”
“You’re just hoping I’ll snag a wife and that’ll be the end of it. You’ll be off the hook.”
“You think this is funny.”
“Watchin’ you tryin’ to sweet talk a woman—yeah, it’ll be the most fun I’ve had in while. So where do you wanna start?”
Johnny didn’t answer but he passed up the most obvious place. The saloon’s parking lot was already full. Instead, he turned onto Main Street and slowed as he searched for a parking place.
Killian straightened in his seat. “You’re not thinkin’ of Ellie, are you?”
The way Killian said it intimated he thought Johnny had lost his mind. Maybe he had. But she was the first woman he’d thought of when Sam had mentioned the stew. “She can cook.”
Killian gave an exaggerated shudder. “But she’s mean.”
“Should be perfect for me then, don’t you think?”
Killian gave a bark of laughter then crammed his cowboy hat on his head.
Johnny raked his hair with his fingers and wished he’d thought to bring a rubber band to tie it back. However, Killian had said girls liked his long, straight hair. He didn’t know why he’d kept it. It was the one most glaring trait that set him apart from his brothers. The last vestige of the heritage he’d thrown off when he’d run away from life on the reservation.
He trailed behind Killian, who stepped out with a bounce in his step, likely grinning his ass off that Ellie Harker was the first woman who’d come to his mind. What he didn’t know was that Johnny had been working up the courage to ask her out, sitting in the diner week after week, but never quite finding the right way to do it.
Killian pushed through the door of the café. Johnny caught it before it slammed in his face, but didn’t say a word. Already, he could feel his body tensing at the thought of talking to the woman.
She’d taken over the running of Katie’s Diner when Katie’s belly got too big and her husband, Cutter Standifer, had insisted she hire a cook until after the birth of their first child.
Inside, the smell of freshly baked apple pie assailed him, and his belly rumbled loudly. There could be worse things than being hitched to a mean woman, especially when she could cook almost as well as Gracie.
The place was busy. Wade Luckadoo’s girl, a college kid home for the summer with blue streaks in her white-blond hair, glided out of the kitchen with a tray balanced on one hand. “Someone’ll be right with you. Take a seat if you can find one.”
Killian headed to the counter and slid onto a stool then patted the empty one beside him. Johnny felt his face harden to stone, his usual mask in public, as he sat. From this vantage they had a view straight into the kitchen where Ellie was working.
One glance and his body stilled, breath leaving in a quiet sigh. She was a pretty woman, although her looks weren’t flashy like most men might prefer. Pale blonde hair, pretty milk-colored skin, and he didn’t need to see what stretched below. Her well-padded curves were burned into his memory.
Right now, her cheeks were rosy, a fine sheen of sweat glistening on her brow. Johnny stared, wondering, not for the first time, whether she’d taste like everything she cooked.
Ellie pushed back a lock of her pale hair that fell over her hazel eyes with the back of her hand and then glanced up. Her startled gaze met his for a second then quickly darted to his brother before falling away.
He kept right on staring, wondering how long it would be before she’d come out to check on the customers first-hand.
Killian leaned toward him to whisper. “See? She was lookin’.”
“She looked at you too. Would have looked at Ole Win’s ugly face if he’d taken a seat right in front of her.”
“But she wouldn’t have blushed.”
“She’s cookin’ over a stove. Of course her cheeks are pink.”
Killian grunted. “You are the stubbornest man I’ve ever known. She’s interested.”
Johnny didn’t like the little thrill of hope that warmed him. No use getting excited when Killian was only trying to warm him up to the challenge. “She looked at you too,” he repeated under his breath.
Killian arched a brow. “We could follow in the twins’ footsteps…”
“I’m not sharin’ a wife with you.”
“Only one of us can marry her, but seein’ as you’re a little stunted in the courtin’ arena, you might need someone watchin’ out for your interests. I can close this deal for you, bro.”
Johnny thought about all the times he’d rehearsed the perfect opening line but sat tongue-tied when Ellie’s attention landed right on him. He might need some help all right. “Say I was to agree to let you help. No one else would have to know?”
Killian’s lips curved in a sly arc. “No one other than Ellie.”
Johnny ground his teeth. “I might need a little help. The woman ties my tongue into a knot.”
“You just do what you always do. Play the silent Injun. Be mysterious. Leave the rest to me.”
Johnny didn’t like it one bit, but he didn’t see another way around it. And the last thing he’d admit to Killian was that Sam’s pronouncement had given him the nudge he’d needed. He’d had his eye on Mean Ellie Harker for weeks but hadn’t gotten up the gumption to do anything about it.
He nodded, then instantly regretted agreeing when Killian’s mouth stretched into a wider grin.
“Not a word to the twins,” he said, gritting his teeth.
“It’ll be our little secret.”
The kitchen door swung open and Ellie breezed out, a towel over her shoulder and a pitcher of water in her hand. She grabbed two tumblers from under the counter and set one in front of each man. “What can I do for you boys?”
Johnny bristled. No one called him a boy except Sam these days. And the way she said it with that wicked glint in her eyes told him she knew he didn’t like it.
Killian leaned over the counter and tilted back his head. “Sweetheart, how come no one’s married you out from under this place?”
Johnny stepped on Killian’s boot and ground his heel into his brother’s toe.
Killian grimaced but didn’t turn away from Ellie’s narrowing glance.
“Guess I’ve just been lucky,” she said, her tone brisk. “What’ll it be? We’ve got meatloaf and mac tonight.”
“Just pie. Johnny here’s been goin’ on and on about how good your pie is.”
“Has he now?” Her razor glance flicked to Johnny, and he felt its scrape against his cheek. She leaned closer, her face inches from his. “What do you say, cowboy? Want me to top it with cream?”
He gulped at her throaty purr. Not a sound he’d ever heard her make. His dick stirred and his cheeks heated. “Vanilla,” he ground out.
She tsked. “A shame. Not what I had in mind at all.”
His mind went blank for a second. “Um, you meant whipped?”
She gave a wicked chuckle, and his skin burned like fire.
“Now, that’s more like it,” she said, her voice deepening into husky purr again.
Beside him, Killian choked on laughter.
Ellie straightened and raised both brows. “Pie comin’ up. À la mode.” She turned on her heel, but not before he saw a hint of a smile on her face.
“Not bad, bro. Not bad at all.”
“Not bad?” Johnny growled. “She thinks I’m an idiot.”
“She was flirtin’ with you.”
“She knows I can’t get a word out that makes a lick o’ sense around her.”
Killian turned his gaze from the sashay of her pretty bottom. “She knows you’re interested.”
“How long we gotta sit here?”
“’Til this place closes down. Don’t eat that pie too quick.”
“It’ll be soggy.”
“Then get another slice.”
Johnny ducked his head and turned to watch Ellie as she refilled glasses, pausing to share a word or a quick quip. She had a way with her customers. A sassy flare. With her other customers anyway. Most times, she just ignored him. Or teased him, like tonight, until he couldn’t think he was so damn hard.
Her head tilted back in laughter at something a couple said to her, then turned to catch him watching her.
For once, he didn’t let his glance skitter away. He held her gaze, let her note where he looked, and then burned a slow trail down her body.
This time, he saw her throat work around a gulp.
Killian nudged him with an elbow. “Not bad, bro. Not bad at all.”
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