Book 2 in the Hope Contemporary Romance Series
March 25, 2014
Book 2 in the Hope Contemporary Romance Series
An all-new novel of small-town romance, second chances, and hope…
When a movie crew asks to film on his cattle ranch, Logan McCormack doesn’t expect Desiree Jenkins, the young, sought-after star, to be so open, so down-to-earth, or so intimately interested in him. But the last thing a loner like Logan needs is a distraction like Des, who wouldn’t understand what it’s like to live peacefully off the land.
But it’s Logan who doesn’t understand. What Des wants is an escape from paparazzi and gossip columns, and she’s found it at Logan’s ranch. Now it’s up to her to prove that she’s like any other girl looking to be accepted for who she is. And she’s hoping that it’s by this real life cowboy who has everything it takes—and more—to give her the kind of happily ever after that can’t be found in the movies.
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Hope Ignites: Book 2 in the Hope Contemporary Romance Series
Logan McCormack had to have been drunk or out of his goddamned mind to have agreed to let a movie crew film on his ranch.
Why he thought it had been a good idea was beyond him. But Martha, the ranch cook and house manager was starstruck, and when she’d heard who the lead actress was—some name Logan had already forgotten, alongside some freakin’ heartthrob of the month as her costar, Martha gone all melty and told him it would be good for business.
Plus, the production company had offered a buttload of cash, and he wasn’t the type to turn down extra money. Since they’d be filming on the east side of the property which was mostly hills and grassland and nowhere near their cattle operation, they’d be out of the way. So at the time it had seemed like a good idea.
They’d come in a week ago, a convoy of semi’s and trailers and black SUV’s. Logan had been working the fence property and had seen them driving in. Hell, it had looked like some Hollywood parade. The whole town had showed up at the gates to the ranch to witness it. He’d gotten all the gossip about it when Martha had served up dinner. She’d talked it up nonstop, her voice more animated than he’d heard in a long time.
“I’m pretty sure Desiree Jenkins and Colt Stevens are on our property as we speak,” Martha had said as she’d laid the salad on the table. “Are you going to go check it out, Logan?”
“Why would I want to do that?” he’d asked, way more interested in eating than he was in the goings on at the east property.
“You rented them the land. It’s your responsibility to make sure they’re settled in.”
He’d said no, and Martha had argued. And when Martha argued about something, it was best you just do whatever she wanted, because she wasn’t the type to let a topic die.
“I’ll go see about it in a few days.” That few days had turned into a week, and Martha had been nearly apoplectic that he hadn’t checked it out yet. Which could affect what she served for dinner, since Martha in a snit meant she could take to her room with some kind of mystery ailment and he’d end up eating baloney sandwiches for dinner instead of a hot meal.
So after he was done with his work the next day, he climbed into his truck and drove over to the site. Crews had already finished building the set for…whatever movie it was they were filming. Some post apocalyptic futuristic something or another, supposedly set on another planet. The sparse vegetation, scrub and hills of the east property would work just fine for it, he supposed. He’d signed the contracts and deposited the check, but hadn’t bothered to pay attention to the name of the film. He wasn’t much of a moviegoer. To go to the movies meant heading into town, and he’d rather sit on the porch and have a beer at night. He liked the quiet. If he wanted to see a movie, he had a television and one of those subscription accounts. That was good enough for him.
Martha was right. It already looked like they’d built a small town on one of the flat lands out there. He parked his truck on the rise, popped open the beer he’d shoved in his cooler and leaned against the hood of his truck to watch the hustle of people moving back and forth. Trailers had been set up as living areas, though these trailers looked way more expensive than anything Logan could ever afford. They were more like big houses on wheels. Probably what the stars lived in while they shot the movie.
An SUV came up the road, dust flying behind him. A couple burly guys in all black wearing sunglasses rolled out of the vehicle.
“This is a closed set.”
Unruffled, Logan stared at them. “Okay.”
“You aren’t supposed to be on this property.”
“I own this property.”
One of the guys in black frowned at him. “You’re the property owner?”
Logan let out a short laugh. “I’m not about to show you my ID. Like I said, I own this land and you’re renting it.”
“We’ll still need to see an I.D.” burly guy number two said.
Logan folded his arms. “Yeah, and you can kiss my ass.”
His attention turned to a slight woman—a girl, really, running up the hill. Technically she appeared to be jogging, since she wore tight pants that just went past her knees and a sleeveless top that hugged her slender body. She had dark hair pulled back in a braid and the guys suddenly stepped in front of Logan as if he was going to pull a gun on the woman.
When she reached them, she stopped, drawing in several deep breaths.
“What’s up, Carl?”
“Saw this guy parked up here and came out to check it out. He says he’s the property owner but he won’t show I.D. to prove it.”
She finally straightened and stretched her back. “Is that right? And are you the property owner?”
“So it says on the ranch deed.”
She walked over and held out her hand. “I’m Des.”
Logan shook her hand. “Logan McCormack.”
“Nice ranch, Logan.”
“Have you been down to watch filming yet?”
“Why would I want to do that?”
She quirked a smile. “I don’t know. I thought maybe you’d find it interesting.”
“Are you working on the film crew, Des?”
Her lips curled into a smirk. “You could say that.”
One of the big guys stepped forward. “Miss Jenkins?”
“It’s okay, Carl. You and Duke can take off.”
Carl shook his head. “Not a good idea.”
She shot him a look. “And I said I’m fine.”
With another serious death glare, the guy named Carl and the other guy got into the SUV and drove back down the hill.
“Are those your bodyguards?”
She laughed. “No. Well, sometimes.”
“So you must be the star of the show.”
She shrugged. “Well, I’m the lead. I don’t know about star.”
“What are you doing out here?”
“Taking a break. And getting some exercise.”
“Not really a gym on site for you to work out in, is there?”
“No. This is better. You must love it here.”
She leaned against the front of his truck, grabbed his beer from his hand, took a long swallow and handed it back to him. “Thanks.”
“I don’t recall offering it to you.”
She turned to her side. “You’re not very friendly, are you, Logan?”
“I try not to be.”
“Yeah? And why’s that?”
“It keeps people away.”
“Oh, so you don’t like people.”
“I didn’t say that.”
She laughed, and he liked the gravely, raspy, sexy sound of it. Which he shouldn’t.
“Do you have any more of those?” she asked, eyeing his beer.
When she cocked a brow, he added. “Front passenger floor of the truck. Help yourself.”
She went around and grabbed a beer, bringing him one, too. “Yours looked about empty.” She unscrewed the top and took a long swallow.
“You sure you’re old enough to be drinking those?”
There went that laugh again. “I’m sure.” She gave him a sideways glance. “Are you old enough to be drinking them?”
“Funny.” He unscrewed the top and took a long swallow.
She leaned next to him and looked out over the valley.
“Just how big is this ranch, Logan?”
“It’s pretty big.”
She shot him a look. “Pretend I’m smart and just tell me.”
“It’s a little over a hundred thousand acres.”
“Holy shit. That’s a lot. No wonder you could afford to lend us a small piece of the pie.”
“I didn’t lend it. I’m renting it to your movie making company. Which means I make money. Working a ranch is costly business.”
“I’m sure it is. Though honestly, I wouldn’t know.”
He took another swallow of beer as he studied her. “City girl?”
“A little of that, and a little country. I’ve been around. Never lived on a ranch, though.”
“Where are you from?”
“Just about everywhere.”
She tilted her head and looked up at him. “What makes you think that?”
“I don’t think anything at all. Just guessing.”
“Good guess. Yeah, my dad was army. We moved around a lot.”
“So you’ve seen the world.”
She didn’t smile this time. “You could say that.”
“You probably still see a lot of it, being an actress.”
“Sometimes a lot more than I want to.” She took a couple drinks of her beer and kept her gaze focused below, where the movie was being filmed. And she stopped talking.
Logan didn’t know what to make of Desiree Jenkins. She couldn’t be more than mid-twenties at best, which put her firmly in the close to ten years younger than him category. Scrubbed of makeup, she looked like a teenager, but there was a worldliness in her eyes that made her seem a lot older.
She sure was pretty with her long dark hair and wide eyes that he couldn’t quite get a handle on, color wise. Every time she shifted position, so did the color. At first they seemed blue, but now they were more like a brownish green, with little flecks of gold in them.
He frowned. “Huh?”
“You’re staring at me. Do I have dirt on my face?”
“No. I’m looking at your eyes. The color of them.”
“Oh yeah. My dad told me I had chameleon eyes. I figure they’re just hazel, with a little of every color in them. Pretty cool, huh?”
“Huh. I guess so.”
She leaned back against his car again. “Not much impresses you, does it, Logan?”
“Nope.” But her eyes did.
“So tell me about your ranch. What do you do here?”
“Wow, so descriptive. I’ll bet you’re a great conversationalist at parties.”
“Don’t get to a lot of parties around here.”
“Maybe you don’t get invited to a lot of parties.”
“Can’t say that breaks my heart any.”
She rolled her eyes. “Anyway, about the ranch?”
“We work cattle. We also have horses, but they’re wild mustangs so we don’t mess with them except to feed them in the winter.”
“Okay. Do you raise the cattle for beef?”
“You didn’t strike me as a dairy farmer.”
“Really. And what does a typical dairy farmer look like to you?”
She shrugged. “No idea. Not like you. You’re more the rugged, work the land type, not milk the cows type.”
He wasn’t sure whether to take that as a compliment, or whether she’d just insulted dairy farmers. Either way, it was obvious she had no idea what she was talking about. Then again, he didn’t know shit about the movie making. But he wasn’t spouting off about them, either.
“Well, I gotta go.”
She pushed off the truck and handed him the empty beer bottle. “Thanks for the drink. You should come down and watch filming.”
“No, thanks. I’m plenty busy with my own work.”
“You might find what we do interesting.”
“I’m interested enough in what I do.”
She cocked her head to the side, revealing a soft column of her neck. He didn’t want to be interested in her neck, but he was. “Afraid you might linger a little too long? Maybe get bitten by the acting bug?”
He laughed at that. “Uh, no.”
“Then come on down and watch us work. I’ll make sure the big burly guys won’t bother you.”
Martha would have a fit if he’d gotten an invite and he didn’t say yes. “My house manager is a big fan.”
“Bring her down to watch a day of filming. We’re doing a big dramatic scene tomorrow. She’d probably love that.”
“She probably would.”
“I’ll have to warn you there’s a lot of standing around and waiting in between takes, but I promise you the end result is always worthwhile. What’s your housekeeper’s name?”
“You and Martha come on out to the set. I promise it’ll be fun.”
There were a million reasons this wasn’t a good idea. But then there was Martha, and he hated the thought of cold sandwiches. “What time?”
“I’m usually in makeup by six a.m., so we should start shooting by eight.”
“You get up that early? I thought all you movie stars slept ‘til noon.”
“Now who’s funny? I’ll let the crew know you’re coming.” She lifted her arms over her head, stretched then kicked off into a run, waving at him. “See you tomorrow, Logan.”
Why the hell he’d agreed to that, he had no idea. He had more than enough to do, and losing a day would put him behind.
But at least Martha would be happy.
Des made it back to the film site and ran straight into Theo, her director.
“Des. Where’d you run off to?”
“I took a run to get some exercise. Did you need me for something?”
“Yes. We need to do a reshoot of one of this morning’s scenes. I told you not to disappear.”
“Sorry. I’ll head over to makeup and hair.”
“Too late now. I’ve already dismissed the crew for the day and the lighting isn’t right. We’ll pick it up later.” He walked with her as she headed to her trailer. “I wanted to go over tomorrow’s scenes with you, though. How about dinner tonight? My trailer?” He put his arm around her shoulder.
Her skin crawled and she immediately wanted to shrug him off. Theo was a notorious, disgusting, very married womanizer who liked to hit on his leading ladies, especially on location. But he was also a brilliant director, so one had to take the bad with the good. “I need a shower after my run, Theo. And I’ve already made plans to run lines with Colt over dinner. You’re welcome to join us, though. We could knock out discussion about tomorrow’s scenes then.”
Theo paused, then shook his head. “No, that’s all right. We’ll do it in the morning during prep. I’ll see you then.”
“Okay. See you tomorrow, Theo.”
She stepped up his pace before Theo came up with any more pervy ideas.
“Cornered you, did he?”
She smiled at Colt Stevens, her costar. “Why weren’t you here to save me?”
“Sorry babe. I was on the phone. I saw Theo hook onto you as soon as you got back on set. Did you have a good run?”
“I did. Did you have a good phone call?”
His eyes gleamed. “I did.”
Des looked around to make sure they were alone. “And how is Tony?”
“Pining away for me, as always. I wish he could be here.”
“I wish he could too.” Des wrapped her arm around Colt’s waist. “Why don’t you just come out of the closet and be done with it already?”
They’d reached her trailer. Colt opened the door for her and Des stepped in. Colt followed and shut the door. “Oh, right. Smokin’ hot movie star who gets all the sexy roles comes out as gay.”
Des shrugged. “So? It’s the twenty-first century, Colt. And you kiss better than any leading man I’ve ever worked with. I doubt any of your future leading ladies would be deterred.”
Colt sat on her sofa, stretching out his long legs. “Thanks, babe. Tony thinks so too.”
She laughed. “Seriously, though. We have chemistry through the roof and it shows on screen. If you can pull that off, who cares who you love off screen?”
“Well, I sure don’t. And you don’t. And probably most of America doesn’t give a shit, either. But my management team does care. And they say no to coming out.”
She plopped onto the sofa next to him. “I’m sorry. You should be able to live your life freely and not have to parade around with a bunch of women you don’t care about while Tony is stuck loving you behind the scenes.”
Colt let out a sigh. “I know, love. But it is what it is, and I guess it’s going to stay that way for a while. Maybe someday we’ll be able to change that.”
She pushed off and stood. “Hopefully sooner rather than later. I want you to be happy.”
“I want you to be happy, too.”
She gave him a smile. “I am happy. I’m living my dream here.”
“Sure you are.”
“Did you get dinner ordered?”
“Should be here in about fifteen.”
“Pop open a bottle of wine for us, then. I’m going to hop in the shower.”
Des stripped and got into the shower, washing away the body makeup from today’s scenes and the sweat from her run. She thought about Colt. They’d known each other since before either of them had ever gotten their first part in film, when they’d bunked together in a one bedroom apartment in Hollywood. They’d become fast friends and had stayed that way. She’d found out right away that Colt was gay—hard to hide that kind of thing from your best friend and roommate. And when they’d started getting roles together, they’d bonded and supported each others’ careers. Fortunately, they’d also been lucky enough to score roles in films together. Which of course made love scenes hysterically funny to film. But they were professionals and they were actors. And because they were so close, they had a natural chemistry that lent itself well to the screen. They were comfortable together, and lit up the screen. They were often linked together in the gossip circles, which Colt found hysterical.
So did Des. She didn’t mind bearding for him, and often went out to premieres and to dinner with him to give him a cover when he didn’t feel like playing the role of a straight guy with some other woman.
Until she’d met Jason and had started a relationship with him.
Which had recently gone up in flames. But she wasn’t going to think about him anymore. He’d already wasted enough of her time.
Now she was free to hook up with Colt again. At least on the surface.
She got out of the shower and put on a pair of shorts and a tank top. The smell of dinner made her stomach clench. She was hungry, so she hurriedly combed out her hair and went into the main room of the trailer, where Colt was laying out forks and plates.
“All that salt. I love looking puffy in front of the camera.”
Colt grinned. “You couldn’t look puffy if you tried. Sit down and eat.”
They ate and chatted about the day, and roughed out tomorrow’s scenes in between bites.
“I met Logan McCormack, the owner of the ranch today,” she said as she grabbed a fortune cookie.
“Yeah? What’s he like?”
“Incredibly sexy, in a brooding, loner cowboy sort of way.”
“Really. Would I like him?”
She laughed. “I think you’d love him. And Tony would kill you.”
“Hey, I’m devoted and madly in love and you know that. Doesn’t mean I can’t ogle.”
“I invited him to the set. He said his house manager is a big fan, so he’s going to bring her tomorrow.”
She looked at Colt. “Hmmm what?”
“You’re interested. Now I really can’t wait to meet him.”
“I didn’t say I was interested in him, only that he was interesting.”
“Same thing, isn’t it?”
“Not at all.” She cracked open her fortune cookie and popped a piece into her mouth as she unfolded the fortune and read it.
Your life is about to change in new and exciting ways.
She’d believe that when it happened.