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Hard Knox

Hard Knox

After relentlessly pursuing the biggest badass around and failing, Dead Horse, Montana’s wild child offers him an irresistible proposition—one night of passion, one and done, and she’ll walk away forever…

Dead Horse, Montana’s wild child, Carleen Crossley, knows what she wants—or rather—who. She’s spent years chasing after Knox Ramsey, the biggest badass in Dead Horse, MT. However, she’s resigned herself to the fact that her methods of gaining his affection aren’t reaping any rewards. Yes, her antics keep the townsfolk amused, and Knox definitely knows she’s alive, but she has yet to break through his cold, hard heart to claim her man.

For Knox, Carleen is impossible to ignore. She’s everywhere he is. The sexy vixen has made him uncomfortably aware that she’s his for the taking, and Lord knows he’s tempted. However, he knows he’s not the man for her. He’s his father’s son with his father’s temper, and he won’t succumb to Carleen’s charms because she deserves better than him.

In one moment of frustration over his refusal to really see her and everything she’s offering, Carleen proposes a deal Knox finds impossible to resist. One night of passion—one and done—and she’ll never bother him again.

When she keeps her promise afterward, Knox’s pursuit begins because once was not enough.

Read an Excerpt

Knox Ramsey was a man most folks in Dead Horse, Montana, shied away from. His tall, burly frame was imposing enough. Add the dark eyebrows that seemed perpetually lowered over his nearly black, piercing eyes and his huge, meaty fists, and he made most folks shiver with dread whenever his gaze swung their way.

However, Carleen Crossley wasn’t “most folks.” When she looked at Knox, she shivered the same as anyone, but for a very different reason. To her, Knox was The One.

She’d known it since she was a teenager, working after school to earn money for her cheerleading outfits. Knox hadn’t been the one to hire her—his mother, Dorothea Ramsey, had for no other reason than to annoy her son. Plus, she’d placed Carleen in the front office, doing little tasks that didn’t really need doing in a rough and tumble place like the Ride or Die Body and Repair Shop—like filing (who needed paperwork unless you wanted the grease-grimed fingerprints for a police forensics audit), janitorial work (again, years’ worth of engine oil and grease couldn’t be wiped away with a little or a lot of degreasers), and making coffee (she had never mastered making the sludge Knox thought of as an actual beverage).

Even when she’d been sixteen, she’d recognized his appeal by the way her ovaries cramped in his presence. As she’d grown older, she’d noted other “proof,” like how her nipples beaded hard and her cheeks and groin got hot just being near him. She could feel him the moment he came into her vicinity. The air hummed with electricity. Her sex gave her warning, too, instantly softening and getting wet. When she turned and met that black gaze, her heart would stutter and then pound. Whatever she was doing, whatever thought was flitting through her mind, ground to a halt as she took him in. Looking at him was like downing a shot of whiskey—bracing and exhilarating.

Knox, with his deadly glare and biker’s windswept hair, was a bad boy through and through. And she had a mighty thirst for the biggest, baddest boy in Dead Horse, Montana.

Too bad the man didn’t feel the same way about her. After years of flaunting her body and seeking ways to slide up against him to tempt him, he still managed to deflect her affections.

Not that Carleen was ready to give up. Lately, her campaign to wear him down had managed to put a few dents in his thick armor. She’d long since passed twenty, so age could no longer be his excuse to deny her. Her age had been the reason he’d fired her from his shop. When she’d plopped onto his lap in front of Mrs. Simmons when she’d arrived to pick up her Volvo after having it serviced, that had been the last straw. She’d never seen his face so red or heard him roar so loud.

His Goddammit, Carleen! had made Mrs. Simmons’ eyes grow so large the whites had seemed to consume her rheumy blue irises.

Although he’d fired her on the spot, and she’d lost daily contact with him, her devotion hadn’t waned. Not one bit.

When her parents had sold their home in Dead Horse and headed to the big city of Helena, she’d kept pictures of him tucked into the frame of her vanity mirror just to remind herself that he was her heart’s desire. No man was as overwhelmingly masculine as her Knox. No high school jock could compare.

Sure, she’d dated in high school. She’d even let a couple of the football players get to third base, but she’d only considered those experiences as “homework” so she could learn more about how a man’s anatomy worked.

After all, knowledge was power.

When she’d decided to move back to Dead Horse on her own, she’d taken note of the successful campaigns women in her orbit had waged to capture the attention of the men they wanted, and she’d insinuated herself into their group.

Amy Calloway was her bestie since high school, and now she was apprenticing with the hunters Knox so abhorred, learning how to be a bounty hunter under the “tutelage” of her boyfriend, Mica Ford. Rhonda had nabbed Chase Kudrow and was now mothering his niece and happily playing house with her bounty-hunter husband. Laura Pinchot, for whom she’d worked briefly in her dessert shop, had snared Dylan “Preacher” Priestley, another hunter. And while the woman hadn’t quite made it down the aisle yet because she kept “growing” her wedding, she was deliriously happy. Then there was Meryl Bascomb, who, although still single, had her choice of men and somehow knew how to keep them at a distance but still keep them eager to squire her around. There was Lila, the latest in her group of friends, who had finally captured the town’s richest man, Cash Whitaker, and had quickly married him. That Cash was a friend of Knox’s was…helpful. Not that Lila’s methods would work for Carleen. She didn’t have a child and had no interest in adopting another, which had assured Cash’s involvement since he’d killed little Annie’s father in self-defense. Still, her knowledge of the opposite sex was helpful.

No, Carleen’s methods were her own. She was on a campaign to wear down Knox’s defenses. The cracks in his armor were beginning to reveal themselves.

Her methods included simply being where he was, which had required that she build a network of informants who enjoyed watching her drive Knox crazy by showing up and then smothering him with attention. Some men might have found her weapon of choice obnoxious, but she knew she had his attention, and he hadn’t dumped her off his lap in a while.

Take last night at the Dead Horse Walk-In Diner, where she’d been waiting tables under the supervision of her Aunt Nadine. The moment he’d entered the restaurant, she’d forgotten about the drink order she’d taken for the table of men who were heading to their fishing cabin in the woods.

Knox had stepped across the threshold, and her back had straightened, her head had turned, and when she’d seen that indeed it was him, she’d sauntered over to him, wearing her most sultry smile.

Once she’d shown him to his table, she’d sat upon his knee, ignoring the muffled snorts of laughter from the other patrons. She’d been wearing a skirt as short as her waitress’s apron, and her bare thighs had rested on his blue-jean-clad one as she’d taken his order.

“What can I get for you?” she’d asked breathily.

One dark brow had risen as he’d leveled her with a stern glare.

“A beer from the tap,” she’d said, nodding as though he’d spoken his order. “The meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and corn. No green beans for you,” she’d added, tapping the eraser end of her pencil against his bearded chin. Then she’d wriggled on his knee, making sure she’d leave a wet spot there. When she set her feet on the floor and walked away, she’d reached back to make sure her skirt was still covering what was important—and drawing his attention to her long, tanned legs.

When his order had been ready, she’d delivered it and then sat on his left thigh to free his right hand while he ate. She’d told him all about her day. About her shower and how she’d rasped her skin with a loofah because she wanted to get it ready for the scrape of calluses. She’d lifted her wrist to his nose between bites to let him sniff her perfume, then leaned toward his ear to tell him where else she’d spritzed the scent.

When he’d been finishing his last bite of mashed potatoes, he’d at last given into temptation and inserted a hand between her legs to trace her folds through her panties, encountering more of her moisture. She’d pulled back her head and whispered, “That’s for you. All for you, Knox.”

He’d withdrawn his hand and sucked in a deep breath. His jaw had tightened, and his cheeks had flushed. “You have to stop this, Carleen.”

“Why? I’m legal. I’m willing. Some part of you likes me,” she’d said, grinding down on his hardening cock.

His low, humming growl lifted goosebumps on her skin. “I’m not interested.”


“Any man would respond when you’re wiggling on his dick,” he’d pushed through his gritted teeth.

“Tell me, Knox,” she’d said, leaning close enough their lips nearly touched, “do you really want me grinding on some other guy? Want me to let him feel me up while you watch?”

His eyes had narrowed to angry slits. Proof again of his interest and that she was getting to him.

However, she hadn’t pressed her advantage. She’d given him a grin, one more wiggle, and then left him to finish his meal. She’d made her point.

Today was another day.

She used a clean towel to wipe away the steam from the mirror, then leaned toward the glass. Her skin was still supple and taut. She looked good with or without makeup due to her Mediterranean lineage, which darkened her skin just enough to give her a healthy, tanned glow.

She spent the next several minutes bending at the waist while she blow-dried her tawny hair. When she was done, she flipped it back and smiled at her reflection. Yeah, she looked good, but a brush of blush, a glide of eyeliner along her upper lid, and a swipe of cinnamon-flavored, tinted gloss on her lips would be enough to add a touch of “natural” glamor. She knew from her long acquaintance with the body man that he didn’t like a lot of “goop” on a woman’s face.

Her phone rattled on the countertop, and she bent to see a text from Dorothea.

Dorothea:  He’s grumpy as hell. One of THOSE days

Carleen quickly tapped out her response.

Me: Thanks for the heads up. I’ll head to the saloon

Dorothea:  Good luck, girl!

At least she had his mother on her side. Dorothea had noted all those years ago that her son had been different around Carleen, avoiding the front office all day long, then seeming to “gird his loins”—Dorothea’s description—whenever he’d had to enter the office area.

After he’d fired her, he’d gone even gloomier. In the years she’d been away, Dorothea said he’d seen other women but had never connected with them other than in “the physical way.”

When she’d returned to Dead Horse, he’d perked up, looking edgier and bothered, which his mom interpreted as a true sign of interest.

Dorothea was all for Carleen throwing herself at her son. She wanted grandkids.

Carleen was more than willing to grant her wish. All she had to do was push him to the point of breaking his steely grip on his control. Once she pierced it, she’d use his momentary weakness to her advantage. She had no doubt that after they’d shared a night in his bed, he’d be hers.

Not that she thought she was “all that” in bed, but she was certain he’d find it harder to ignore her once he’d had the “Carleen experience.” She might not have a ton of hands-on practice, but she’d read plenty. Mostly romance novels. They’d taught her that the way to a man’s heart was shedding her inhibitions and giving a great blow job. Well, she’d shown her panties to the world often enough, she had the first covered.

Amy had warned her once that she ought not to lay everything out on a platter. That a man liked to do the chasing, but Carleen didn’t have that kind of patience.

Nope, she’d win this war of attrition even if it took until she was old and gray.

She finished dressing, selecting a blue jean skirt with a short, frayed hem, a white baby tee with a scoop neck so low her pushup bra perfectly displayed her cleavage, and a pair of brown sandals that were rather plain but didn’t take the attention off her bright red pedicure. Another shake of her head to fluff her hair around her shoulders, and she was ready.

Maybe today would be the day Knox Ramsey surrendered to her.

Carleen grabbed her keys and her fringed crossbody purse and sailed out of her bedroom.

In the living room, Aunt Nadine sat in her chair, facing the window overlooking the front yard, while sipping on a steaming cup of coffee. She liked to watch her neighbors come and go, especially when someone crept out a window or made the walk of shame to their car parked farther down the street. Nadine liked to be the first to know so she could broadcast their sins to the other hens in her church group.

Aunt Nadine’s glance flicked over her before her lips pursed, and she resumed her surveillance. “Guess you don’t want to hear—”

“Nope. I love you, Aunt Nadine, but I’m not listening to you,” Carleen said, raising a hand as though to ward off her aunt’s unsolicited advice. Her aunt had never married, so Carleen didn’t think her advice regarding her pursuit of Knox would be of any use.

“Where’s this generation’s dignity?” she muttered.

“I have dignity,” Carleen said, then bit her lip. Why had she replied? It only encouraged her aunt to continue.

“Wearin’ skirts so short your ass shows if you sneeze. Followin’ that man around town. Sittin’ on his lap when you have tables waitin’.” She shook her head. “Only thing you’re gonna get is a broken heart.”

“Well, it’ll be my broken heart, and I won’t have any regrets because at least I tried.”

Aunt Nadine winced, which gave Carleen pause. Had she struck a nerve?

Her aunt sat straighter in her chair and leaned closer to the window to peer to the right. “Well, will you look at that…”

Carleen glanced out to the street. A brunette was walking down the driveway of the house two houses down, her black pumps dangling from two fingers and wearing sunglasses on a cloudy day. “That’s Shay Bassett,” Carleen murmured. “And that’s not her house.”

“No, it’s not.”

Carleen pressed her lips together to stop her smile. “Think she was babysitting for Al?”

“Al’s kids don’t come until next weekend.”

Carleen shook her head. Her aunt knew way too much about her neighbors—and she barely acknowledged their greetings when she happened to actually cross their paths. “Auntie, you need a life.”

Aunt Nadine snorted. “That woman’s asking for trouble. The man cheated on his last wife. Does she think she’s gonna fare any better?”

“Maybe she was just looking for some fun.”

Aunt Nadine slowly turned her head and gave her a hard stare. “It’s a sin. Canoodling is not meant to be fun.”

Carleen’s eyes watered as she did her best to suppress a laugh. “Canoodling? Is that what they called it back in the day?”

“Sin! That’s what they called it.”

She patted her aunt’s shoulder. “Well, you better let your women know they have another name to add to their prayer list.”

“Your name is still at the top of the list, girl. I haven’t given up hope just yet.”

Now, Carleen did chuckle. “I haven’t done a thing I need to confess on Sunday. More’s the pity,” she added under her breath.

“Just give me a ring or a text. Let me know you’re safe.”

As she left the house and climbed into her car, warmth filled Carleen’s chest. For all her bluster, Aunt Nadine wasn’t a bad person. To Carleen, she shared a lot of characteristics with the man she was hoping to find at the saloon today. They were both grumpy and scared most folks. Nadine didn’t have to offer her a place to live until she saved enough for her own home. Over the years, she’d given her the most thoughtful gifts for birthdays and Christmas. While she barely tolerated signs of affection, her constant harping was just her way of showing she cared. Carleen was sure of it.

She hoped Knox’s stubbornness was grounded in the same loving care. Maybe he thought he was too old for her, or she was too innocent.

She rolled her eyes. Okay, maybe that’s stretching it a bit far.

She preferred to think that Knox was just stuck in his ways. In a rut. Maybe he couldn’t see the advantages to having a woman around—one who would devote herself to his comfort and needs.

“Speaking of needs…” Carleen muttered. As always, even thinking about the man made her horny. It was a good thing the saloon was just ahead. She signaled and turned into the parking lot, then pulled her car into a space hidden by the trash bins at the side. If he wasn’t already inside, she didn’t want to give him a reason to change his mind about where he’d prefer to drink.

One last glance into the mirror, one last smile to boost her confidence, and she stepped onto the pavement.

Knox Ramsey, here I come.