Now, you know I had fun with this title: A Four-Gone Conclusion. I’ll admit I like titles that are a little tongue-in-cheek. But this one’s to the point as well. There are four brothers involved with one woman. And you know exactly what the lady’s gonna decide, right? It’s fantasy, after all. One of my favorites as it turns out. A woman kidnapped by four sexy brothers. Their proximity “forced.” But I like my girls feisty. They tend to give as well as they get. Read the excerpt. You’ll see.
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“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?
Ellie drowned in that kiss, pulled under by the ebb and flow of his firm lips.
Already breathless with excitement over her unusual predicament, the way he’d waded into the room, taking command of the situation, and of her, melted her resolve.
What woman could resist? Seriously?
Four handsome men hell-bent on having her? Ellie Harker? If this were a romance novel, like the naughty ones she preferred, the heroine’s resolve would wilt beneath their strong wills right about now.
Why did she think she had to fight? How could she now? His lips circled on hers, tugging at her mouth, pausing to bite her lower lip until she gasped and opened. Then he was inside her, stroking deep. Every bit as determined as the hard edge of his jaw had appeared as he’d strode toward her.
Why not surrender?
The thought seeped into her mind, eroding the walls she’d erected around herself when she’d thought they only toyed with her, flirted with her like they would any other woman, not meaning it.
When his tongue stroked hers, teasing her in a sensual play no one else could see, she was sorely tempted to give way.
But then where would she be? A single sordid night with the Logan boys? A soiled reputation with little hope of finding a decent man willing to overlook the stain? She clamped her teeth around his tongue and bit, then opened her eyes.
He grunted. His eyes slammed open.
“She just bite him?” one of the twins said then laughed.
Johnny’s hands clamped on her shoulders, giving her a firm but gentle squeeze of warning.
She opened her jaws and let him retreat.
A kiss pressed against the side of her cheek. Killian tipped her chin his way and gave her a wink. “She’s just reminding us she’s got choices even if she is tied to a chair, aren’t you, sweetheart?”
Johnny pushed away from the chair and straightened, his tall, thickly muscled frame looming like a dark shadow.
Ellie dragged in deeper breaths, relieved he wasn’t so close he clouded her mind.
“Our intentions are purely honorable, you know,” Killian murmured.
She gave him a wide-eyed glare.
“As it so happens, we’re in need of a wife.”
The twins shared a glance then burst into dirty chuckles.
“How about we do a trial run?” Killian said, his tone cajoling. “You can see what we’re like to be around. Then you can choose.”
“A trial run…” she parroted dumbly. Had he really just said that they wanted her not as a plaything but as a wife? “Choose?”
“Which one of us you marry.”
She shook her head. “You’re crazy.”
“But the thought isn’t a huge surprise, is it? Tell me that we haven’t tempted you.”
She turned her head, taking in the sight of the men—the grinning twins, Killian’s wicked half smile, then last, Johnny’s quiet glower. Her gaze darted back to the twins. Safer territory, or so she told herself. “What if I don’t choose any of you?”
One of Killian’s dark reddish-brown brows rose. “Then we all walk away. We won’t bother you again.”
She grunted, not believing his easy charm, as glib as any used car salesman trying to unload the lemon on his lot. “You say that, but you seem pretty sure I won’t.”
His expression softened. “Sweetheart, you’re full of sass, but I’ve seen the way you look at us. The way you looked when Johnny kissed you.”
He’d noticed that? Lord, she’d all but melted into a puddle. “You must think I’m a big whore to even consider your proposition.”
“If you were a whore, you wouldn’t have been our first choice. We want children, and we want to know they’re ours.”
Despite his assurance, she felt more than mildly insulted. “Let me guess. It’s all about my pies.”
Killian’s smile stretched wide. “That’s where it started. But the way you’ve handled this, us…now that’s even more of a turn-on.”
Ellie relaxed against the hard back of the chair and closed her eyes. For privacy. Since they’d allowed her none. She knew they awaited her answer.
She knew what her answer should be, what a good girl would say, but then she’d be back to square one—wondering when the rest of her life would begin. And this felt like a new beginning. Even though she told herself this was probably just an elaborate, sexy trap to lure a woman into a foursome, hope stirred inside her.
Would this be the start of something wonderful or was she going to make the biggest mistake of her life?
She opened her eyes, seeking Johnny’s gaze first, as though it was natural to look for his approval.
“Untie me,” she said quietly.
He let out a deep breath, his mouth twisting, but strode toward her again and slipped behind her. The knots eased instantly, and she pulled her hands in front of her, rubbing her wrists although they didn’t really hurt.
She stood shakily and all the men stood and backed up a step, their expressions, for once, all looking consistently grim. “I’m hungry. I haven’t had my dinner yet,” she said. “Show me the kitchen.”
Johnny leaned his butt against one of the counters, watching as Ellie took control of the kitchen, stepping up like a general as she called for pans and pots and ingredients, which the men eagerly leapt to provide.
Not him, though. He watched, staying silent. Tense inside, because he was fighting arousal. Someone, maybe several someones, would be sharing her bed once she’d made her choice. He understood that she was asserting herself now so they’d know she wouldn’t be pushed into anything she didn’t want.
He was fine with that. At least, she’d stopped harping on bringing them all up on charges. Not that a night or two in jail wasn’t a bad idea for his two younger foster siblings. Mace and Jason had gone too far. As they always did. Pushing the limits of folks’ tolerance for their free-spirited shenanigans.
And yet, Ellie seemed at ease with them, had them hanging on her every word and gesture like puppies eager for a pet or a scratch behind the ears.
Which of them would she choose in the end? How would the contest be decided? Would it come down to who was best in bed? Who was kindest? Who treated her most like a queen?
He’d lose for sure because he couldn’t be any other way than how he was. For her, however, he yearned to be the better man. He wanted to be the man who called her “wife”.
Killian stood at the stove stirring a creamy sauce for a stroganoff while Mace and Jason cut vegetables for a salad.
Ellie glanced up then gave him the look. The one that had the other men scurrying to do her bidding.
He arched a brow.
“Maybe you could set the table,” she said, sounding breathless.
She’d worded it as a request rather than an order. He shoved away from the counter and gathered plates and utensils. In minutes they were all seated at the table and tucking in to the meal she’d created from scratch. Sam would have no complaints about her cooking.
“Sam’ll have no complaints,” Killian said around his food, echoing his thoughts.
“Sam’d have all our hides for what those two yahoos did,” Johnny muttered.
“Sam’s your foster father?” Ellie asked, a tentative note in her voice.
Johnny nodded, hoping she wouldn’t continue down that particular road. He wasn’t comfortable talking about how he’d come to be here. It was past. Better not revisited.
“Sam never adopted you all,” she continued when no one jumped to answer her question.
Mace glanced at Johnny.
Johnny knew that if they had a hope in hell of getting her to stay that they couldn’t keep shutting her out. He shrugged his acceptance.
Mace cleared his throat. “He couldn’t adopt. We all had living kin.”
Her hazel eyes darkened. “Your…kin…never wanted…”
“No,” Johnny said tersely. “We took Sam’s name after we each hit eighteen. Outta respect. And because he was more of a father to us then we ever had.”
“I’m sorry about that,” she said softly.
“I’m not,” he bit out. “Sam’s a good man.”
Her chin shot up. Her eyes glittered with challenge. “I meant, I’m sorry your families weren’t ideal.”
“Was yours?” Killian asked, deftly diverting her.
Her mouth relaxed into a small smile. “It was. My mother’s still living. In Dallas near my sister.”
“How’d you end up here?”
She lifted a shoulder. “Dallas is big. Fast-paced. I didn’t go to college, so it wasn’t like I was going to have a career. I packed up one day. Headed to the Hill Country. I worked in a German restaurant in Fredericksburg for a while then decided to move on.”
“Why?” Jason blurted.
Her head dipped, and she twisted her fork around an egg noodle. “Because I broke up with my boyfriend. It wasn’t pleasant staying there. Everyone knew him and sided with him.”
“They had to take sides? He cheat on you?” Jason asked.
Johnny could see how uncomfortable she was and gave his brother a quelling glance.
Ellie set aside her fork. “Yes. As a matter of fact, he did.”
“We’d never do that,” Mace said, sitting forward, his expression earnest.
A brow arched. “That supposed to be a selling point?”
“Just sayin’—we’d never do that to a woman.”
Ellie shook her head, her gaze locked with Mace’s like he’d mesmerized her. “Never say never,” she murmured. “You might fall in love.”
Jason choked on his iced tea.
Killian rolled his eyes. “Those two don’t believe in love.”
Jason set down his glass. “Bein’ friends, enjoyin’ sex—why does it have to be about love? It’s just hormones.”
She straightened her shoulders. “I guess I understand what you mean. I’ve never felt that connection some women talk about when the subject of love comes up. Maybe you have a point.”
Johnny didn’t like her agreeing with that sentiment. He’d want her happy. Satisfied with her life. If she fancied herself in love, she might stick around longer. Not that he believed in a roses and promises kind of love either. Love of family, now that he believed in. He had that now.
Killian gave her a smile. “So how’d you end up here?”
Ellie grinned, looking a little sheepish. “I ran out of gas.”
“Yeah, right on Main Street. I wandered into Katie’s Diner and asked for the nearest station. Katie sent Ole Win with a gas can to get me fixed up, served me a meal, and by the time I was done, offered me a job. Katie had been desperate to find someone to take over for her. The hours were long and she wasn’t up to it, not fighting morning sickness and swollen feet. And her husband, Cutter, hovered over her. ’Bout drove her crazy. It was sweet, but he was driving her nuts.”
“So it all worked out,” Killian said.
She nodded. “Yes. I like Two Mule. It’s small. You get to know people. I’ve never really had that.”
“Bein’ on a ranch is smaller,” Johnny said.
Killian gave him a frown then gave Ellie an easy smile. “We have hands and they come and go, but it’s the same guys, seasonal work. No women around.”
The way they all homed in on her had her twitching in her chair. Now she knew for sure she’d be the lone woman among a pack of lonely men.
“A woman might get lonely for girl talk,” Johnny said, ignoring Killian’s warning glances. Ellie had a right to know, up front, what it would be like.
“I’m not much for girl talk,” she said.
Did that mean she was thinking about it? A foot connected with his shin.
Johnny eyed Killian who sat opposite him. He didn’t need to be reminded he hadn’t said a positive word. He turned to Ellie. “You’d be too busy to be lonely.”
The twins frowned.
Killian snorted. “Bro, we’re trying to woo her not scare her away.”
“That’s okay,” Ellie said. “I’m not scared of hard work, but I haven’t said I’ll stay.” She set down her fork. “I’m not doing dishes. Who’s taking me home?”
“You’re not goin’ anywhere,” Johnny grumbled, then cursed to himself for being so blunt.
Her hands folded tightly in front of her. “You mean you’re going to keep up this farce? We’ve had our date. I made you dinner. Now I’d like to go home. I have work in the morning. A diner to run.”
“Stay closed,” he said, afraid he sounded like a cranky bear because he was growling. “Call Cindy and say you’re sick. She can put up a sign.”
“I’m not sick.”
“You’re also not goin’.” Johnny stood slowly, until once again, he dwarfed her.
Her gaze rose and rose. Her jaw lost its stubborn edge. Again, her tongue darted out to wet her lips.
Was she hoping for another kiss?
“We thought we might have some fun,” Jason said as though he hadn’t a clue about the tension between him and Ellie. “Show you what it’d be like.”
She blinked and glanced sideways toward him. “We?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know who you like best before you decide?”
* * * * *
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