Cover, Excerpt & Trailer
For reclusive rancher Jordan Chandler, life holds little meaning—until fate throws him a curve ball in the form of a raven-haired shrew with a temper to match.
When Neave Sinclair flees unjust prosecution, she happens upon rancher Jordan Chandler, a man short on words and long on intimidation.
A tragic accident has left Jordan emotionally scarred and hiding from a past he can’t escape. But a traumatic past isn’t the only thing he’s hiding. The raven-haired spitfire with a heart of gold ignites a spark of hope and he is drawn to her strength, compassion, and wisecracking wit, which masks a soul in torment and elicits his protective instincts.
Neave is a romance novelist who ironically doesn’t believe in love or happily ever after. She is no stranger to loss and senses a kindred spirit in Jordan. His loyalty and dogged determination fuel a need her guarded heart yearns to embrace. But falling in love is a dangerous game of chance when the unresolved issues of his past threaten their relationship.
Sometimes things don't go as planned. And not all secrets are meant to be kept.
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Content/Theme(s): Cowboys, Rancher, Writer, Action, Mystery, Suspense
Release Date: January 18, 2016
Publisher: Liquid Silver Books
Excerpt & More
Neave rubbed her tired, gritty eyes and looked up at the darkening sky. Night was fast approaching and she still had a good distance to go before reaching the next town. From there she would decide what her next step should be. Walking would slow her down considerably, but at the moment she had no other options.
She grabbed her backpack from the car and started to head out when a car engine revved in the distance. She squinted, but the image shimmered and she couldn’t quite make it out. The feeling of being followed that had come over her earlier intensified. Prickles of fear raced down her spine. She considered hiding in the stand of trees behind her, then rejected the idea. The car would be on her before she could make it halfway there.
The vehicle came into view and she could make out a black pickup truck hauling a horse trailer. When the truck came within a hundred yards of her, it slowed enough so she could see the outline of a man at the wheel, a big black dog at his side. She broke out in a cold sweat when she realized he intended to stop. He slowed to a crawl, glanced out the passenger window at her, but kept on going. Less than two car lengths later, the truck stopped then reversed direction.
Neave remained rooted to the spot as the man climbed down from the pickup and walked toward her, favoring his right leg. The dog stuck its head out the partially opened window, eyes fixed on its master. She swallowed over the sudden dryness in her throat. Her heart raced and she had to take a couple of deep breaths to still her rising panic.
The man stopped in front of her, close enough to touch. So close she could see a small scar on his chin. But it was his eyes that caught her attention. Moss green. Empty. She’d never seen eyes so devoid of emotion.
Although he was of average height, his air of strength made him seem formidable. Which made her reaction to him all the more confusing. One minute she was practically cowering in fear, the next she was as calm as the ocean on a clear, sunny day. It was plain crazy, and scared her because, in all her life, she’d never had another adult she could depend on other than herself.
He gave her a quick once-over, jerked his head toward the car sitting by the wayside. “Everything all right here?”
The gentleness in his deep voice surprised her. It was at such odds with his appearance. “Uh, yes, thanks. Just taking a rest.”
He glanced at her backpack, then looked over at the car again. “Got car trouble, or do you like to live dangerously?”
“Pardon?” Neave barely paid attention to what he said. All she could think was that he couldn’t be the law. Otherwise, he would have slapped a pair of handcuffs on her and hauled her off to the nearest lockup by now. He could, however, be another Hannibal Lecter, sizing her up for an afternoon snack.
He folded his arms over his denim jacket. “Not the safest way for a lone woman to travel.”
“My chauffeur took the day off.”
His eyes narrowed. It wouldn’t be the first time her mouth had landed her in trouble.
“Where are you headed?”
Neave hugged her backpack to her chest. She considered lying, but she had the feeling he wasn’t in the market to buy a truckload of bull. “Boulder.” She expected him to ask what she was doing out here all alone in the middle of nowhere. But he didn’t ask and she didn’t volunteer an explanation.
A pregnant pause stretched into forever as he appeared to mull over his options. He obviously wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of offering her a lift. His jaw clenched and a muscle twitched in his cheek. What could have been annoyance flickered in his eyes. Finally, after an eternity in which she considered that helping her out was about as high on his list of priorities as shoveling manure, he looked at her and sighed.
“I’ll give you a lift into the next town. You can call for a tow from there.” He started toward the truck, stopped and looked back at her over his shoulder. “If you’d rather ride than walk, that is.”
She would. But Neave didn’t like coincidences. It seemed a little too convenient for him to show up out of the blue right when she needed a ride. Something about him didn’t ring true. Probably a mild case of overactive imagination, she chided herself. Given the circumstances and everything she’d been through recently, she figured she’d earned the right to be a tad paranoid.
It didn’t help that she’d barely slept in days. She was so tired that the thought of the long walk to the next town only served to heighten her exhaustion. Neave shouldered her backpack and hurried to catch up to the man. At least the pain in her ankle had subsided somewhat. As for her chances, she’d have to hope she hadn’t made a mistake trusting in a complete stranger.
By the time she reached the truck, he was seated inside with the engine running. He’d removed his jacket and was drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. Neave pulled the passenger door open and hauled herself up onto the seat. She turned to thank him for stopping to assist her, only to be brought up short by a very sharp, very dangerous-looking set of fangs. If she’d had more experience with man’s best friend, she might have found it odd that the dog had two different-colored eyes. One brown, one blue.
Neave placed her backpack on the floor at her feet, took off her jacket and laid it on top. The dog sat between her and its master, his every nuance warning her to keep her distance. Neave was only too happy to comply.
“Quiet, Raine.” The man shifted the truck into gear and pulled out onto the highway.
“Raine?” She glanced at the dog from the corner of her eye.
“Yeah. It was raining cats and dogs when I found him a couple years back.”
She couldn’t help but smile. “Good thing you didn’t find him in a pile of cow dung.”
He ignored her comment and kept his eyes glued to the road ahead. The dog lost interest in her and curled up on the seat, nose tucked under its tail. Neave tried to concentrate on the passing scenery, but the silence made her edgy. She shifted on the seat to get a better view of her would-be rescuer. And she was reserving judgment on that one.
The sleeves of his white cotton shirt were rolled up to reveal tanned, muscular forearms sprinkled with a light dusting of hair. She wondered if he ever laughed. The tiny lines furrowing out from his eyes were undoubtedly not laugh lines. His nose was straight, the eyebrows thick and finely arched. His sandy-colored hair bore a hint of gray at the temples. A bit on the long side, it curled over the edge of his collar.
His lips were full, and at the moment, curled into the slightest imitation of a smile. “See anything you like?”
She pretended to count the studs on the dog’s collar. “So, you got a name, or should I just call you assho—”
“Jordan,” he interrupted. “Jordan Chandler. So, you got a name?”
“Neave Sinclair.” She realized her mistake the instant the words left her mouth. But it was too late to call them back. If Jordan recognized her name, he showed no outward sign of it.
“Mighty fancy name,” was all he said, in a tone that implied he couldn’t care less.
She sighed in relief. “Yeah, I thought so too.” Maybe it did sound a bit pretentious, but at least it was better than the “Jane Smith” she’d been assigned at birth.
His brows drew together and he glanced askance at her. He opened his mouth to speak, apparently thought better of it, returned his attention to the road ahead, and silence descended again like a thick, dark shroud.
The dog yawned. His nose twitched. Then his ears. He stretched out his right foreleg and laid it on her lap, wriggled around on the seat until his head was resting on his paw.
“Nice doggy.” Neave went to pet him on the head. The dog bared his teeth and she yanked her hand back.
Jordan grabbed the dog by the collar and pulled him off her. “Funny, Raine usually takes to new people. Can’t imagine why he doesn’t like you.”
Neave could. But she wasn’t about to say so. Somehow she didn’t think Jordan Chandler would be too impressed with her comparing him to his dog. Besides, her mouth had already landed her in enough trouble for one day. So she clamped her lips shut and vowed not to utter another word unless he did. But that was a mistake. As soon as she quit talking, her mind turned inward and started thinking things she’d rather not think.
She started to reach for the locket around her neck, then let her hand fall to her lap. The last thing she needed was to provoke Jordan’s curiosity. Sorrow pierced her heart. Jesse or his wife, Kylie, would have found her letter by now. The letter that deeded over the house, all her personal belongings, and the contents of her bank accounts that hadn’t been frozen, minus the small sum she kept out for herself.
Would she ever be free to return home? Or would she live out the rest of her days running from place to place, always looking over her shoulder? She couldn’t bear that she might never get to see her unborn grandchild. To hold him, to love him the way she’d loved Jesse from the very first moment she felt the life quickening inside her.
Neave forced herself to think of something else. The road her thoughts wanted to take was too painful to travel. She wiped the back of her hand across her eyes and searched for something to redirect her thoughts. Jordan looked at her strangely, but didn’t say anything.
She angled her thumb toward the back of the cab. “I see you’re pulling a horse trailer. Are you a rancher? What kind of horses do you keep?”
“I’m a cattle rancher.”
“Oh. Is that what you have in the trailer? A cow?” She knew she was babbling, but she had to keep him talking.
Jordan sighed, as if resigned to a long and unwelcome conversation. “It was. I just unloaded an Angus bull to a client.”
“And you’re on your way home now?” she asked, ignoring his frown of displeasure.
He didn’t answer and she didn’t know what else to say without sounding like a complete idiot.
Jordan massaged his knee. A muscle twitched in his right cheek. She wondered what happened to him. Could a bull, the very same bull he’d delivered to a client, have gored him? Or had he fallen off his trusty steed and broken his kneecap?
The intricacies of the human mind fascinated her. She liked to watch people and try to figure out what made them tick. Jordan Chandler was no exception. And more compelling, enigmatic than most. Was he married? He wasn’t wearing a wedding ring, but that didn’t necessarily prove anything. Somehow, though, she couldn’t imagine him having a wife. He was too crotchety by far.
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