Maybe you missed it. The series was short. Just a trilogy of stories about cowboys who never got over their first loves. That they were brothers and owned a ranch was just part of the fun. Two of the heroines were older than the cowboys. One was his high school sweetheart. Yes, I’m talking about those boys from the Triplehorn Ranch.
I’ve been thinking about summer for the past couple of weeks. Wish I had time for a short cruise somewhere hot, where I could soak up some rays, dip my toes in saltwater, and dispense with all these layers of clothing! Hell, I wish I could just hit the fast-forward switch and make it May so I could start using the pool!
I’m looking forward to swimming, and hopefully finding time to do it more than once a day! Are you looking forward to summer? If so, what are you wanting to do most?
Comment for a chance to win one of these stories!
From A Long, Hot Summer
One shared past. One weekend to make things right—and make it last forever.
The TripleHorn Brand, Book 3
Sarah Colby has never quite managed to shake off the emotional scars her ex-husband left behind. Nor has she been able to shed the shame of the one indiscretion that still haunts her memories.
When she asks the Triplehorn Ranch for help to move her cattle to an auction, the man they send has her working double-time to shore up the walls around her heart. He’s older now, harder—and hotter—but he’s the same Tommy Triplehorn she couldn’t resist all those years ago.
Tommy couldn’t be happier that his brothers have settled down, but he’s feeling a little smothered by all the domesticity. At the same time, carousing and drinking no longer appeal—and he thinks he knows why. Sarah Colby.
He’s waited too long for her to get over being ashamed of what they shared. He’s old enough to know what he wants. It’s her, and he’s going to use every second of their time together to dismantle her resistance. Even if he has to call in a little backup.
Warning: A cowboy on a mission to prove to the woman he loves that the only number that matters is the number of fantasies he’s willing to fulfill—even if it means sharing her for a night.
The kiss Tommy Triplehorn planted on Candy’s mouth made Sarah Colby’s mouth dry right up. She knew all too well how his kisses felt and couldn’t help the jealousy stirring up inside her as the couple walked down the sidewalk to a motel room door in plain view of every person inside the saloon.
The man had no shame. The red in his cheeks as he’d exited the bar had likely just been from the liquor he’d consumed.
Sarah tamped down the disappointment that soured her stomach and summoned a smile for the man she was meeting this night.
Blake Morrow was thick-shouldered and tall. A burly man with a booming voice. His wealth and standing in the community made him a very suitable suitor. The fact he already had children from a previous wife, was a relief to Sarah, who had resigned herself long ago to her barren state. Blake liked her and desired her property even more. He was honest about that, gently respectful of her intelligence by not trying to romance the Rocking C from under her as so many men had.
His gaze noted her blue jeans, and he arched a brow. “I take it we’re eating steaks here?”
She shrugged. “I ran into some problems before I could break away. No time to get dressed up.” She made no apology. Blake knew her responsibilities as a ranch owner came first.
“You still look beautiful,” he said, his tone gruff.
She appreciated the compliment and smiled, not wanting to read too deeply into anything he said. Surface congeniality, quiet respect. That was more than she was accustomed to. It would do.
Any stray thoughts of handsome cowboys like Tommy Triplehorn were consigned to her fantasy life, not her real life. The young rancher had been a mistake. One she’d regretted the instant she’d let him slip beneath her reserve. She’d felt alone, afraid for her future. She’d mistaken his rock-hard shoulder for maturity, his hot kisses for love. Eventually, she’d fallen from the clouds that had obscured her good sense and faced the cold hard truth. She was a plain woman, a natural woman. A barren, wealthy woman. The only things a man would ever want from her were what she owned and perhaps a bed partner. As sparsely populated as this section of Texas was, she had no illusions that convenience was on her side.
No, she’d learned a hard lesson all those years ago about what men wanted from wives. One she’d never forget. Her destiny wasn’t some fool’s gold of a lover’s promises.
Blake’s strong hand settled at the small of her back to guide her toward a table, something she couldn’t help flinching from. She didn’t need to be led. Didn’t need some big strong man showing her the way. But she kept silent. He was only doing what he’d been taught. He couldn’t know that the last time she’d been led, she’d been forced to submit. The action that left her cold, made her more reserved with men than other women might be.
Not that Blake seemed to notice as he smiled warmly across the table. “I’m surprised you accepted my invitation as many times as you’ve refused.”
She blinked, surprised he was getting straight to the point without any polite preliminaries. “You’ve been asking me for a while. I thought we should get to know each other.”
He nodded, the rugged face tightening just a little. “You know I want to court you.”
“I appreciate your candor,” she said softly. “I understand you have some expectations. I’m willing for us to explore a relationship.”
Good Lord, they sounded like the oil men who’d come to her ranch a few years back asking to sink a test well on her property.
Blake reached across the table and cupped her hand. Just a brief squeeze before he withdrew and flipped open the menu.
The waitress arrived. Relieved by the distraction, Sarah ordered a steak and salad. Blake ordered the same, adding shrimp and potatoes. She supposed such a large man would need the calories. Hopefully, he didn’t expect for her to let him finish her steak. She wasn’t some deskbound rancher. She rode the fences, supervised the movement of the cattle to fresher pastures, participated in the branding every spring. Every calorie she ate fueled her body, just like a man’s.
She forced herself to uncurl her fingers. What was she doing? Looking for problems? For judgment? Was she simply hoping to find a compelling reason to send Blake on his way like she’d done the past eight years with every other man who’d approached her since her husband’s untimely death?
Sarah forced herself to uncurl her hands in her lap. In any other situation she’d have been comfortable, in charge. But here, knowing Blake wanted to marry her, that he’d expect intimacies at some point, left her cold inside.
A damaged heroine in a romance novel, she certainly was not, but she had been tainted by a violent man. Left untrusting and wary. Glad for a long while for her self-imposed celibacy.
Pretending ease with the man sitting across from her seemed an insurmountable task. Who was she fooling? Sooner or later, he’d make a move and she wasn’t entirely sure who she’s react. Would she wouldn’t flinch or lean away. Or simply freeze in place.
The more she considered the idea of intimacy with this man, the more the knot in her stomach hurt. The last thing Blake wanted was problems. He had his life mapped out. He hadn’t looked any further than skin deep to determine she was his next move.
So although he’d be disappointed in the short term, she knew she couldn’t string him along with hopes she’d learn to deal with a husband in her life and bed. Before the salads arrived, Sarah made her apologies and quietly excused herself, leaving a befuddled Blake without a clue what he’d done wrong.
She headed straight to her car, hat in her hand, not looking around the dark parking lot. A scuff of gravel sounded, and she instantly regretted waving Blake back into his chair when he’d offered to walk her out. She cupped her keys, spreading her fingers around three to use as a weapon.
“You didn’t stay for dinner,” came a quiet voice behind her. Smooth as whiskey. Achingly sweet. Tommy Triplehorn.
She tossed back her hair and glanced over her shoulder. “You didn’t stay for whatever…”
The corners of his mouth twitched. “My taste buds must be off. She was too sweet. What’s your excuse?”
Sarah blew out a breath and turned, facing the young man who had plagued her thoughts since their long-ago affair—no intention whatsoever of answering his question. “You’re looking good, Tommy.” Lord, not the smart thing to say, but the plain unvarnished truth. Dark brown hair, worn short, thick shoulders and arms, thighs, heavily muscled… She darted her gaze back up before she exposed her fascination, only to linger on his handsome face. Age had carved maturity into his features, honed them to sharp-edged, masculine lines. He presented an arresting picture, although she did miss the old softness in his now piercing gaze.
A muscle along the edge of his jaw tightened. “When are you gonna face the truth, Sarah?”
She shook her head, swallowing down the hot lump that burned the back of her throat. “I have to go home,” she said hoarsely, turning and jamming her key into the lock, but scraping the paint on her car.
He stepped closer, pressing his body against her back and reached around to gently cup her hand until she released the keys. Then pushing long enough she felt the tension in his tall fame, he unlocked her door and dangled her key ring until she grabbed for it.
Tommy planted his hands on either side of her and nuzzled her hair. “Ever ask yourself why it is I can do this, move into your space, touch you, without you goin’ cold as a block of ice?”
“No.” She wasn’t lying. The last thing she wanted was to remember. She kept the memory of how they’d been together closely guarded, even from herself.
“Didn’t think so. Or you wouldn’t have let all this time pass, even though we both know you belong to me.”
She shook her head. “I don’t belong to you. There is no you and me. We’re all wrong, Tommy.”
His head nodded, rubbing her cheek. “Because I was too young. But sweetheart, age stopped bein’ a good enough reason when I stopped bein’ a teenager.”
“We should never have—“
“Not then. I know it was a mistake. For you, anyway. I have no regrets. But there’s no good reason now.”
He nuzzled the corner of her neck and her knees quivered. She had to be strong. Good Lord, what if someone saw them like this? “Look at me Tommy,” she said staring into the window glass at their two faces. “Look at us. That’s why we don’t belong together.”
Tommy’s brows lowered as he stared into his reflection. “I don’t understand what it is you see that I don’t. If it’s age, that’s not good enough, Sarah. Not anymore. I’m sick and tired of pretendin’ I don’t care.”
She turned inside his arms and met his gaze with a steady one of her own. “You should respect my wishes. I told you no eight years ago. I haven’t changed my mind.”
Tommy leaned away, dropped his head and stared at his clenched hands for a long moment. When he raised his head again, his gaze bored into hers.
The weight of that steady stare settled in her core, and she shivered beneath the raw intensity of his expression.
“Hear me now, Sarah Colby. I’m not givin’ up on us. Everywhere you go, I’ll be there. Waitin’ for you to come to your senses.”
She scoffed, while inside a traitorous part of her body rejoiced. “You sound like you intend to be my stalker.”
“If that’s what it takes to make you understand I’m serious…”
Sarah shivered, hearing the conviction in his deep voice, reading the icy resolve in his gray eyes. The tender cowboy she’d known years ago had been replaced by a man with dangerous edges.
She gripped the door handle behind her and tugged it open.
He caught the corner of the door, and swung it wider, gently handing her into the car. “You head straight home, Ms. Colby,” he said, amusement in his voice. “I’ll be right behind you.”
She got in, slammed the door, and hit the locks. Fear hadn’t triggered her reaction. Oh no. It was the flutter of arousal awakening inside her, so strong her body clenched. She needed to get away. Drive to the sanctuary of her home to reinforce her resolve.
As she pulled out of the parking lot and onto the highway, she couldn’t help darting glances at the rearview mirror. The lights of his truck was there. But he was hanging back at a safe distance. Christ, he’d been serious.
She’d known one day she’d have to reckon with her past. Her one shameful indiscretion had cost her more than a little self-respect. Tommy wasn’t to blame. She shouldered that burden all on her own. She’d been old enough to know better, but hadn’t wanted to resist because he’d been so earnest and heartbreakingly beautiful.
Stalled at the lowest ebb of her marriage, she’d been vulnerable, ready for a little tenderness, which he’d been so eager to provide. One touch and she hadn’t been able to resist another and another—until she’d cuckolded a dangerous man.
While that man was gone from her life for good, one fact hadn’t changed. Tommy Triplehorn was all wrong for her.
He was too young. Too handsome. And from a family that was rapidly expanding. So many children joining the ranks. Any woman who took him on would be expected to contribute to that expansion.
Her chest tightened, and she drew a deep breath to ease the tension making her fingers clench the steering wheel. She thought ahead, to the moment she pulled into her driveway and parked her car beside her house, knowing he wouldn’t leave without trying to convince her to see him.
The last thing she wanted was a confrontation outside where her foreman and any hands might hear. She’d have to invite him inside her home. The thought both frightened and excited her.
But she could do this. Ask him in for coffee. Putter around the kitchen to keep him from trying to continue what he’d started back in the Shooter’s parking lot. There she’d been so intensely aware of him. So needful of his touch.
Damn, eight years and nothing had changed. She dashed a tear from her face with the back of her hand and cursed her own lustful nature. Not something her husband had ever been able to tap into, because he hadn’t given a damn about what pleased her.
The tall gate post at the entrance to her private road loomed to the right. She slowed and signaled to turn, then drove onto the gravel drive, bumping over the cattle guard before heading straight to the house.
A glimpse in her mirror confirmed Tommy had been serious. His headlights bounced, then steadied, following her all the way up the hill.
Sarah breathed deep, calming breaths then let herself out of the car. She gave Tommy a wave and walked toward the porch, wanting to appear collected and needing a little distance and a few spare seconds to achieve that feat.
To her dismay, the quick clip of his boot heels matched the beat of her wayward heart. Seconds later, a hand cupped the small of her back, and he reached around her, hustling her inside the house and closing the door.
At the thrill of his touch, Sarah had the fleeting thought that Tommy Triplehorn might be all wrong for her, but her body was awfully happy he was here.