In Too Deep
Triple Horn Brand, Book 2
Genre: Contemporary; Western
On Sale: March 12, 2013
Some things never change. And some things change everything.
Gabe Triplehorn can think of no better getaway from his heavy responsibilities at the ranch, than to go back to a time and place where he didn’t have a care in the world. When there was just a campground, a river and a girl.
When he gets to Red Hawk Landing, the campground and the river are still there. He just never expected the girl would still be there too. Only now she runs the place.
Lena Twohig can think of no better place to raise her young son than the family-owned campground that holds so many memories. Especially the romance with Gabe that lit up one long-ago summer like a wild electrical storm. Now he’s back, with a ranch-hardened body she knows she shouldn’t want so badly.
No amount of lies or the years that have passed can tame this tidal wave of passion.
Warning: Contains a flash flood of passion between a cowboy who knows how to pitch a tent and a woman who isn’t afraid to get a little dirty.
Note for Readers: You must be of legal age in your country of origin to read this excerpt.
At a bend in the road, he saw the sign nearly hidden by bushes because it tilted at an angle. Red Hawk Landing. Open Memorial Day to Labor Day.
The crackled, worn paint on the leaning sign didn’t bode well, but he took the turn anyway, his truck bumping along an uneven gravel trail that worked its way down a steep decline, heading toward the river’s edge.
When he made the clearing, he heaved a sigh of relief. The place was still in operation. Kids in cutoffs and swimming suits took running dives from the pier. Cars and pickups were parked in front of roughhewn wooden cabins.
He hoped like hell there was still one vacancy left for him and pulled up in front of the small lodge house. The place was clean but showing its age. Looked like the owner needed another handy man to help with a broken spoke or two in the wraparound porch and a window frame that appeared to be rotting away.
He put his truck in park and pushed down on the handle to open the door, but halted the moment she stepped onto the porch.
Lena Twohig. Sweet Jesus.
His breath caught, nostalgia blurring her appearance in a golden light that masked the years etched lightly into her features.
Sure, her figure was a tad fuller, her roots darker, but the feeling he got just looking at her as she lifted a hand to guard her eyes against the brilliant sunshine was exactly the same as it had been all those years ago.
A slow throbbing built in his groin. His body stiffened, going on alert. His gaze swept her womanly frame again, snagging on the generous swell of her bosom, the long, well-toned legs displayed beneath the hem of her shorts. Ten years had been kind indeed.
Then something glinted on one of the fingers cupping her eyes. A flash of white metal.
He remembered a slender band he’d given her. His last gift. A promise he’d never fulfilled. The desire he’d allowed to build while he’d ogled her began to slowly unwind. Lead settled in his stomach.
Lena was strictly on the look-but-don’t-touch list. What a cryin’ damn shame.
And how awkward. He considered backing out of the lot and heading to the coast to Corpus Christi or Galveston, but he couldn’t work up the interest.
Would she even remember him? He wasn’t the same tall, lanky kid with shaggy hair, all elbows and knees and horny, burning need.
His hair was darker, cut short. His face was tanned and toughened by the sun, the blades of his cheeks more pronounced, the corners of his jaw sharper. His body was filled out by years of physical labor.
His hand let go of the keys, and he felt a smile tug at his lips. So maybe he couldn’t hope for a lusty trip down memory lane, but how much fun would it be to pretend he’d never met her, never been here before? While never touching, he could tease and flirt using his intimate knowledge of her, and she’d never realize he knew exactly what he was doing.
And the mister? Well, he’d keep the games well away from him. He didn’t want to stir up trouble. Just wanted to have a little fun—a challenge that didn’t have a thing to do with cattle or balancing the ranch’s books.
He reached for the cowboy hat on the seat beside him, pushed open the door to his truck and stepped down to the ground. Once there, he put on his hat and strode toward the porch steps.
Her gaze swung his way, swept him briefly head to toe. She pasted on a smile of welcome, although he noted caution dug a line between her brows.
“Howdy, ma’am,” he said, touching the brim of his hat.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
Her voice was huskier than he remembered but still had a lilting quality that caressed his nerve endings. Damn shame she was taken. He’d like nothing better than to hear that voice greeting him in the morning from the pillow next to his.
The throbbing that had begun at his first glimpse of her tall, statuesque figure intensified. Inconveniently, because he couldn’t think past the urgency in his loins. He cleared his throat. “I was hoping you had a vacancy. One of the cabins.”
“I’m sorry. We’re booked up.” She gave him a polite smile. “All I have are a couple of rooms in the lodge.”
She’s hoping I’ll pass. He returned her smile with a grin that stretched slowly across his face. “That’ll be fine then.”
“We aren’t fancy,” she said, eyeing his Lucchese boots. “I do provide meals in the dining room, but we don’t have a lot of amenities. Most folks come on weekends to float the river. The cabins have added features, their own barbeque pits and small fridges, but you’d have to take your meals in the dining room, and you’d have to share a bathroom.”
Gabe gave her an easy smile. “I just came to fish. Do you have poles to rent?”
She raised her brows a little bit. “Of course. And we can provide bait, worms and crickets. The gift shop has some fancy lures.”
“I’m hopin’ I don’t actually catch much.” He gave her a brief smile. “Fishin’s man code for bein’ lazy.”
“Oh.” Her cheeks flushed.
Had it been his smile?
“Well, you can register inside,” she said, pointing toward the door behind her. “Kayla’s at the desk. She’ll get you settled.” She cleared her throat. “How long do you plan to stay?”
“A couple of weeks, ma’am.” He looked around the clearing and then swept her body with a quick glance. “That ought to be long enough.”
He could see the questions in her eyes. And a hint of anxiety.
He hadn’t meant to make her worry and wondered at its cause—unless she was feeling the same lazy heat that was burning through him.
Damn inconvenient she was married, because he’d have loved to entice her into his bed. Gabe wasn’t the least shy about going after what he wanted, and he wanted her. At least to see whether she was still as hot-blooded and adventurous as she’d been all those years ago when he’d been a boy not yet sure of himself, and she’d been a girl ready to take on the role of sexual tutor.
Again, he touched the brim of his hat and walked toward the door. He fought the urge to glance back and see if she was still watching him.
Best not take this little game too far. The last thing he wanted was to walk into the end of a shotgun held by a jealous husband. That had happened to him once, and he’d been damn sure ever since that any woman he pursued was completely free.
He stepped through the lodge’s door and pulled the scents of Pine-Sol and lemon oil into his nose. Neither could quite mask the lingering floral scent of her perfume. He shook his head, wondering why he’d insisted on staying. There was nothing for him here. He’d have been better off heading straight back to the ranch, but then he suspected he’d just be surlier than ever since his expectations hadn’t been met.
Still, for a moment when he’d first seen her, he’d felt something inside him relax. At the very least, if he stayed he could satisfy his curiosity about her life. And maybe he could finally let go.