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The Rancher's Secret Heir

Written by Maureen Child

Chapter Five

Emily’s heart jolted. What was he saying? “JT...”

He shook his head as if he could wipe away the words hanging in the air between them. “Yeah, forget about that for now. So you told Shauna that Lorelai wanted me. True, or just a ploy?”

Forget about it? How was she supposed to do that? How could he? Was it really so easy for him to just compartmentalize his life? How was she supposed to feel about that?

“Way to change the subject,” she muttered and caught a flash of humor in his eyes. “No, Lorelai’s asleep. It was just a ploy. Nell’s got the monitor, listening out for her.”

Thankfully, JT’s housekeeper was a grandma who lived three states away from her grandchildren, so she was delighted to spend time with Lorelai. And, since Emily’s own parents had died four years ago, she loved that her baby was getting not only a daddy, but a grandmother, as well. For as long as they were here, anyway.

“Good.” He nodded. “That’s good.”

Well, weren’t they stiff and polite and civilized all of a sudden? Just a couple of minutes ago, the sexual tension had been palpable. Now, it, too, had been pushed aside. For how long, though?

Emily remembered the day they’d met and the flash of sparks between them that had blistered into an inferno in just a few hours. She’d never been so drawn to anyone before or since JT. Nothing had changed for her, but for the last week, he’d been avoiding her as much as possible. So was that to keep himself in check, or because he really didn’t want her anymore?

Yet he’d introduced her as his fiancée, hadn’t he? That had to mean something, too.

Maybe it was time to push him into remembering their time together as clearly as she did.

“So,” she said abruptly, “can I see your horses? I mean, you talked about them a lot when we met and I’m here now, so...”

“Sure.” He watched her with curiosity shining in his eyes, as if he was trying to figure her out. But a moment later, he turned and started walking, while Emily hurried to catch up.

He gave her a tour of the impeccably neat stable. The floor was swept; fresh air whisked through the tunnel created by open doors on either side of the building. Horses pushed their great heads through the half doors as if to greet him as he passed, and Emily noticed that he took a second or two with each horse—stroking, murmuring soft words, letting each animal know they were important to him—and she felt another tug at her heart.

The night before, she’d seen him holding Lorelai as gently as if the little girl were made of glass. And he’d smiled tenderly when the baby patted his cheeks with her little hands and then laid her head on his shoulder in complete trust. That memory would be etched into her mind and soul for as long as she lived.

Whether he meant to or not, JT was flooding Emily’s heart with the very feelings he’d walked out on her to prevent. She was sliding down a very dangerous slope and picking up speed. The problem was, she didn’t know if she was heading for a happily-ever-after or if she was going to wind up with a broken heart again. Emily had never gotten over him—she didn’t really think that was possible. He was her once-in-a-lifetime and she knew it. The question was, what was she willing to do about it?

“What’re you thinking?” His voice came deep and soft in the dim light of the stables.

She could tell him exactly what was on her mind, but maybe it would be better if she simply showed him. Looking up into his eyes, she gave in to the urge nudging her forward. “Just this.”

Holding her breath, Emily went up on her toes and kissed him.

That first brush of his mouth against hers sent a jolt of something powerful rushing through her. She heard herself moan and he must have heard her, too, because he suddenly grabbed hold of her, yanked her close and wrapped his arms around her. He deepened the kiss, his tongue caressing hers with a hunger she hadn’t known in more than a year. Clinging to his shoulders, pressing herself tightly against him, she sighed as memories crowded her brain. Days of laughter, nights of passion and whispered sighs as bodies moved together. And she wanted it all again. Now. If she was only going to have him temporarily in her life, then she wanted all of him for however long this lasted.

“Hey, boss!” Matt’s shout came from a distance but was enough to break them apart. They stared at each other in breathless shock. Emily’s heart was racing, her breath coming in short, ragged gasps. His eyes flashed as his gaze settled on her mouth then lifted to meet her eyes.

“Damn it,” he murmured, reaching out to stroke his thumb across her bottom lip, sending new tingles of expectation, want, jittering through her.

“Maybe he’ll go away,” Emily whispered brokenly.

“Boss!” The shout came again, closer this time. “You in there?”

“Guess he’s not going anywhere,” JT said grimly. Seconds ticked past before he finally said, “I’ve gotta go.”

“Just when things were getting...interesting,” she said.

One corner of his mouth quirked up. “Yeah. Matt always did have lousy timing.”

At least she had the knowledge that JT was no happier with the interruption than she was. Small comfort, but it was something. “Right,” she said, nodding. “I should get back to the house. Check on Lorelai.”

She didn’t want to, though. She wanted to stay here in the shadows. With him. And from what she could see in his eyes, he felt the same way. That simmering fire inside her heated up, building on itself until she felt as if her skin should crackle and peel with the heat from it.

“You looking at me like that isn’t making it easy for me to leave,” he told her.

“Good,” she said, licking her bottom lip, watching his eyes flare as he followed the action. “I don’t want it to be easy.”

He took a step back from her and nodded. “Mission accomplished.”

Then he turned and headed for the open double doors at the far end of the stable. But at the opening, he stopped, looked over his shoulder at her. “We’re not done here.”

“Promises, promises,” she teased.

A wicked grin flashed across his face briefly, then he turned, walked into the slash of sunlight and Emily was alone.

For now.

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About the author

When I started writing, I was just looking for a way to work and stay ...

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Maureen Child

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