The winner (chosen by random number generator) of the free download
of Laying Down the Law is Chris Bails! Chris, congrats! And send me an email
so I’ll know where to send your story! ~DD
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This week’s snippet theme is all about the heartbreak of breaking up. Zuri and Colt from Laying Down the Law had a parting that haunted them for years. In this scene, you’ll meet both stubborn souls still too proud to admit they’ve never been able to forget their youthful romance and move on. Enjoy!
a free download of this book!
“With amazing suspense, and hot, dominant lovin’ this cowboy and his high school sweetheart take the reader on an amazing emotional journey. Mixed with a bit of humor, sizzling bedroom scenes, and cowboys that steal your heart, Ms. Devlin has created a beyond 5 Book worthy start of an incredible new series.” ~ 5/5 Books, Reviews by MollySeeking sanctuary could be the hottest mistake she ever made.
The TripleHorn Brand, Book 1
A lifetime ago, Zuri Prescott kicked the dirt off her boots and ditched her small-time small town for the glam city life—and lived to regret it. When she’s framed for a bank job, she lights out for home, seeking refuge with her old high school sweetheart while she figures out her next steps. Only she discovers that the boy she left behind is the last man she should trust.
Sheriff Colt Triplehorn knows trouble when he sees it, especially when it comes in the form of a familiar trespasser, caught naked between an angry bull and her underwear. Sure she’s up to her usual no good, he grants her sanctuary at his ranch—the better to keep an eye on her, and purge her from his system once and for all.
Reconnection is sweet and hot, but the heat can’t hide the truth. When Colt inevitably finds out what Zuri’s running from, it’s too late to put the fire out, and he’s got a career-compromising choice on his hands. Follow the letter of the law, or follow his heart.
Product Warnings: When a sheriff captures the girl who got away, expect revenge so hot it leaves brands on two lonely hearts…
Colt Triplehorn pushed back his cowboy hat and wiped away the sweat gathering above his brow with his shirtsleeve. The blue sky was clear of clouds, the sun rising hot and fast and turning the moisture soaked in the ground into steam. The air was thick, humid, hard to breathe.
Even his dog, Scout, felt the aftereffects of the previous night’s storm. His gray and white Australian Shepherd kept pace with his horse. But the dog’s tongue lolled from one side of his mouth, and he wasn’t as quick to dart toward the herd and nip at the heels of the cows who wandered too far from the main body.
They’d been moving cattle since dawn—shifting them from a parched and overgrazed pasture to this one. Here the buffalo grass was longer and greening up fast after the downpour. Maybe they’d even be able to put off buying another load of hay for a week or so if the sun didn’t scorch the grass too quickly.
Colt’s gaze lifted to the tall elm trees lining the banks of the creek that bordered the pasture, and he stifled a grimace. Past the tall trees stood the ramshackle hunting cabin he hadn’t had the heart to enter in years. His brothers kept it stocked, heading there each fall during the short deer-hunting season. Maybe this year, he’d join them.
Maybe this year, he’d get past the memories the little cedar-log cabin evoked. Twelve years was a long time to hold onto a dream.
There in that little cabin, he’d secretly met with his girl, Zuri. There, they’d cuddled after school and explored each other’s bodies. There, he’d taken her virginity. It was also there that he’d planned to propose.
The ring had burned a hole in his pocket for weeks, waiting for graduation day. He’d bought new bedding for the twin mattresses of the two bunk beds, replaced the yellowed curtains in the windows with pretty white lace. A white linen tablecloth had covered the plank table, and he’d smuggled china and crystal from the house for the meal he’d planned. Everything had been perfect. Waiting for her.
But she’d never known, because as soon as the graduation ceremony ended, she’d walked over to him as everyone else headed to the parking lot outside the high school gym, given him a kiss and told him goodbye.
He’d stood there like a stump, not saying a word. Every warning his brothers had given him about not trusting her, about her being bad news, searing his mind.
“What were you gonna tell me?” she’d asked, gazing up at him with her deceptively soft brown eyes.
“Never mind,” he’d mumbled, pulling himself together for his own pride’s sake and walking her to her car. It had been the last time he’d seen or talked to her. Not that he’d expected to. Once she’d passed the city-limits sign, he’d been history.
He hoped like hell she’d found what she’d been looking for, because he’d been lost after she left.
Sure, he’d gone through the motions—even did a stint in the Army, enlisting that summer because he had to get away. When he’d come back, he wasn’t the same person he’d been. He’d worked on the ranch between semesters at Texas A&M, entered the police academy in San Antonio afterward, before heading home to work in the small town’s sheriff’s department. But he hadn’t felt as connected to Caldera, Texas, as he had before. He’d stayed because he had a job and a duty to help maintain the family ranch. He certainly hadn’t stayed because he’d found everything he ever wanted here.
More selective than his horn-dog brothers, he’d kept his affairs few and far between. Perhaps he needed a little of what the younger Triplehorn brothers were famous for. He needed to let loose, have a couple of drinks and find a willing woman.
She didn’t have to be pretty or slim. Didn’t have to be young. He wouldn’t be choosy. After all, his goal wasn’t a relationship.
He needed the kind of arrangement he’d had with Maggie Pounders…until the day she’d up and got married. Last time he’d showed up at her door, she’d lifted her left hand to show him the ring. He hadn’t known she’d been seeing anyone else or that she was even interested in marriage. Not that they’d ever done a whole lot of talking.
One thing was for certain, Colt needed some relief to get rid of the edgy, restless energy that had made him a bear to be around lately—more likely to snap than smile. He needed release from the pressure of all the responsibilities he’d taken on in the last year. Hell, he just needed release. Plain and simple.
This morning, as he’d eaten dust churned up by five hundred sets of hooves, Colt had made up his mind. Tonight, he’d take off the badge, head into Caldera, find a willing partner and get laid. For his brothers’ sake.
They’d been tip-toeing around him for days, making sly comments about the source of his bad temper. They’d even offered to hook him up, but the last thing Colt wanted was those two finding him a woman. Gabe and Tommy’s idea of the perfect playmate didn’t square with his. Never had.
They’d both warned him about Zuri Prescott when he’d seemed hell-bent to marry her into the family. Zuri was a different sort of trouble from the kind they wanted for their big brother. And in the end, they’d been right. Still, their preferences for big-chested blondes with easy smiles and easier morals didn’t stir his interest. He’d find his own playmate, thank you very much.
Scout’s sharp bark pulled him from his thoughts. The dog ran ahead of him, his ears pricking forward, and he peeled away and headed toward the creek. Maybe Scout had found Old Mule, the ornery bull who was always one step away from being hamburger due to his contentious nature and independent streak.
Colt lifted his hand to send a signal to his brother, Gabe, and laid his reins over the neck of his horse to turn him toward the trees and the creek. He looked for a firm, gentle slope for his horse to maneuver.
From the corner of his eye, something white floating on the surface of the water caught his attention. He pulled back on the reins. A woman’s bra.
Finding odd items floating on a river after a storm wasn’t all that unusual, and the station hadn’t gotten any calls for missing persons. Still, he had to check it out.
Colt clucked at his horse, his curiosity and professional instinct kicking into gear. The creek had risen fast the previous night, but had just as quickly receded, leaving the banks muddy and soft. His horse’s hind legs slipped, but the old paint caught himself and scrambled down to the graveled bank.
Colt dismounted, dropped his reins and followed the edge of the water.
“Shoo, cow! Shoo!” came a breathy, feminine shout from just beyond the bend of the river, accompanied by Scout’s excited barks.
Rounding the bend, he spotted a twelve-hundred-pound bull, the Triple-Horn brand standing in stark relief against the animal’s dun-colored rump. Scout stood next to him, barking ferociously, but the bull’s attention seemed glued to something on the other side of him.
Colt slipped closer and a flash of pale, creamy legs was visible beneath the creature’s belly. He crept along the edge of the water, taking cover behind a tree to get a better look. His eyes widened at the sight in front of him.
A naked woman stood in the center of the creek, waving her arms at the bull.
Colt paused, taking in the long, sleek curves and pale skin. Her chin-length hair was slicked back. His cock stirred instantly. His heart hammered fast, stricken by the resemblance…but it couldn’t be…
Then Old Mule ambled toward the edge of the water, his head down, snorting. Not a good sign.
“Lady,” he said, stepping out from behind the tree. “You need to hold real still.”
The woman whipped her head toward him, her brown eyes rounding.
Her shock wasn’t any greater than his. For a long moment, they both stood stock still.
But Old Mule snorted again, pawing his hooves into a pile of folded fabric on the ground beneath him, which Scout was tugging to free.
“Scout, heel!” he shouted and waited until his dog raced to his side. “Don’t move,” he repeated softly to the woman, reluctantly pulling his gaze from her and turning to the bull.
Old Mule lowered his head, scraping a horn into the dirt at his feet. When he lifted his head, something shiny and pink came up, snagged on the tip of one horn. The bull snorted again, a moist huff, his eyes on the woman standing frozen in front of him.
The woman’s gaze darted to the right, toward a rocky ledge overhanging the water.
The bull huffed and stomped his front legs.
Cursing, Colt took off his hat and strode forward, waving the straw hat at the bull. “Get on back. Ha! Ha!”
The bull gave a plaintive moo, all his bluster gone. He headed up the creek, pink panties stuck to the tip of his horn, but taking his time to stop and pluck at grass on the creek bank.
“Get on!” Colt shouted, slapping the bull on the rear to get him moving faster, funneling him up an arroyo and toward the herd, Scout right behind him.
After the bull and the dog clambered up the side, Colt dropped his hat back on his head and turned slowly toward Zuri.
She dropped into the water, crossing her arms over her chest.
Colt stalked toward the bank, whistling softly—but finding it hard because his lips were beginning to stretch into a smile, anger and lust swirling into a heady mixture of revenge. “Well, well, well,” he said quietly. “Mind telling me what you’re doin’ skinny-dippin’ on my property?”
Zuri opened her mouth to speak, but she clamped her lips closed and lifted her chin. “I was at the cabin and decided I needed a bath. There’s no runnin’ water.”
He didn’t bother reminding her that her efforts to shield herself from his gaze were too little and too late. His blood had already surged, fueled by a spike of adrenaline and lust. “Sure there is,” he growled. “There’s a pump next to the sink.”
“It doesn’t work.”
“You have to prime it with water first.” At her blank stare, he muttered, “Never mind. I guess the better question to ask is what the hell are you doin’ back here, Zuri-girl?”
Zuri bit her lip. Colt didn’t look happy to see her. But why should he? It wasn’t like she’d been any more than a convenience for him in high school. The girl from the wrong side of the tracks with the scandalous family—she’d never really stood a chance at being anything other than his little bit on the side.
She could still remember standing in the gym, her heart pounding as she stared up at him, telling him she had her bags packed and she was heading east to start her life. Her stepfather had shown her the door that morning, his duty done. She didn’t have any place to go but away—unless Colt offered her another option.
But his face had hardened, his jaw sawing closed, a muscle rippling along the strong, square edge.
“What were you gonna tell me?” she’d asked past the lump lodged at the back of her throat.
“Never mind,” he’d said, pulling on a tight smile and walking her to her car.
With that, she’d had the answer to the question that had lingered between them their entire senior year. He didn’t love her enough to ask her to stay. And besides, she’d had big plans. Plans that didn’t include staying in this one-horse town, no matter how handsome her boyfriend was. Or how sweet his lovemaking.
Staring back at him now, she didn’t know why she hadn’t fought harder to hold onto him. The promise his lean, rangy body had held had been fulfilled. His broad shoulders and thickly muscled arms stretched the pale blue cotton of his work shirt. His waist tapered to well-hewn hips and thighs. His face, however, had undergone the most changes, losing its youthful softness. It was now honed to sharp, masculine edges. Lord, he made her mouth water.
She wondered if he’d been disappointed in the lack of change in her own body. She was still long and skinny, her breasts unimpressive swells that hardly needed the bra that had floated down the center of the river when she’d confronted the angry bull.
Colt knelt beside her clothing, tucked a finger under her skirt and raised it. “This all you have to wear?”
Light shone through a large jagged tear where the bull’s sharp hooves had ground the navy, summer-weight wool skirt. Zuri’s shoulders slumped.
“Do you have something else to put on?”
She shook her head, and Colt stared for a long moment. Then he dropped the ruined skirt to the ground and picked up the blouse. It was grayed from her time in the floodwaters and smudged by the bull’s abuse. Colt shook his head. He dropped the blouse too, heaved a sigh, then stood and began to unbutton his shirt.
“Where are your shoes, Zuri?” he asked, his voice rough as gravel.
“Guess I lost them,” she said, feeling like her mouth was stuffed with cotton.
“You gonna tell me what’s goin’ on?”
She sucked her bottom lip between her teeth because it had started to tremble, but managed a nod, even though she knew she’d wait and see whether she could trust him with all her woes.
“Here,” he said, holding his shirt out for her take.
Only problem was, she’d have to stand and walk out of the water to get it.
Shouldn’t matter that much, anyway, she told herself. Nothing he hadn’t already seen…or tasted and caressed. “Um…I don’t suppose you’d turn around?”
His steely gaze narrowed. “Not a chance.”
“When did you get so mean?”
One dark brow rose, and Zuri felt a flush of heat paint her cheeks and chest.
“You do know you’re bathin’ downstream from a herd of cattle…” he drawled.
Zuri popped out of the water, her hands curling at her sides. “Ugh! And you just stood there?”
His soft chuckle held a note of bitterness and not a hint of amusement. Zuri began to think she’d run into the wrong man.
Slowly, she stood, barely resisting the urge to cover her important parts with her hands. With her head held high, she walked out of the water and snatched at the shirt, but he drew back his arm at the last second and held it just out of reach.
“Colt, this isn’t funny,” she said tightly.
“No, it’s not. Guess I’m just seein’ how much you want it.”
Zuri dropped her hands at her sides and slowly curled her hands into fists. “What’s it gonna take?”
“I don’t know,” he said, his gaze dropping down her body, lingering over her nipples, which tautened with embarrassing speed, then sweeping downward to the ruff of dark hair cloaking her sex. “How ’bout a kiss? For old time’s sake.”
Zuri sucked in a breath, startled at how quickly the tension coiled around them. “Just a kiss?”
“Yes, ma’am,” he said, his gaze at last meeting hers again, and narrowing.
She stepped closer, knowing she was flirting with fire. They’d never stopped at just one kiss. Not once they’d gotten past the hurdle of her virginity.
Swallowing hard, she pressed a hand against his naked chest to steady her weakening knees and lifted up on her toes. Her mouth grazed briefly over his, and she dropped down and took a step back. “The shirt?”
“Call that a kiss?”
“Colt…don’t…” she said, all bravado seeping away as she noted that anger rather than attraction glinted in his storm-cloud eyes.
“Forget how I like it?” he said softly.
Hell, no. She still had lush, wet dreams about his wicked kisses.
The temptation to give him what he wanted was too much to resist. Pretending she didn’t feel a thing, not the liquefying heat that curled deep in her core or the hummingbird-fast flutter of her heartbeats, she gave him a blistering glare and rose again, gliding the tips of her nipples across his bare chest.
He sucked in a deep breath. She reached up and thrust her fingertips into his short, black-brown hair and tugged to bring his mouth down.
When their lips met this time, they both gasped at the intensity of the heat twining around them. His arms closed around her. She clung to his neck, her knees weakening, her whole body trembling against him.
Skin-to-skin, she was reminded why any other man had fallen short in comparison. His muscled frame held hers easily, tensing everywhere their bodies met. He dug his fingers into her bottom and pulled her hips flush with his. His cock jerked beneath the zipper of his jeans, filling swiftly and rutting into her belly.
Their mouths didn’t move at first. Both breathed deeply, sharing their breaths as their hips ground together. And then he groaned and locked his lips over hers and softly sucked, moving her lips beneath his in drugging circles.
When their tongues made tentative forays, touching tips, then stroking deeply alongside each other, Zuri grew lightheaded, overcome with the sheer sensuality of their embrace. His silky-slick tongue rimmed the edges of her teeth, then slowly stroked over the roof of her mouth. His lips suctioned softly, reminding her how tenderly he’d once suckled her breasts.
She pulled her mouth away, struggling to breathe. Reluctantly, she met his gaze, knowing she’d given him more than he’d asked for because she hadn’t been able to stop.
His hands dropped from her skin. His expression hardened. “Guess you didn’t forget after all.”
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