In the wilds of Oklahoma, three sisters have a hot date with destiny. Valerie, Brea, and Jolene McMasters reunite on the family ranch that should have been called the Bar Nothing…
When Valerie left for the big city, she kissed her foreman husband, Mason, goodbye—along with the best sex she ever had. Now, seeing him brings back sizzling memories. But their rekindled fire threatens to burn them both.
Watching Gage wrangle untamed horses with a gentle but firm touch leaves Brea hot and bothered. But can she live out her fantasy with a man who may ask more than she’s willing to give?
Ranch hand Walker Morgan can’t afford to lose his job by getting too close to his new boss, Jolene, no matter how much she tempts him. But Jolene’s prepared to take the first step, because what Jolene wants, Jolene gets. And Jolene wants Walker.
BOUND, BRANDED & BRAZEN
(c) 2010 by Jaci Burton All Rights Reserved
Releasing March 2, 2010 by Berkley Heat
Excerpt after the jump
She should head back to the house, but too many memories clung there. Instead, she opened the barn doors, and was enveloped in the warmth from the horses.
“Hey, babies,” she said in a soft, gentle voice as the closed the door, letting the darkness surround her. She inhaled the scent of hay and horses and smiled. Such familiar smells. Sometimes the things of home just felt right. This felt right. She moved in, careful not to make too much noise in the dark. “It’s just me.” She wanted to assure them she wasn’t some stranger there to harm them.
She heard the movement of hooves, the occasional wuffling of their breathing, but otherwise all was quiet. She moved along each stall, refamiliarizing herself with horses she’d ridden before, and meeting some of the new ones. The smell reminded her of being in here with her father. He’d loved the horses. He’d loved everything about this ranch, about this life. She had, too, until her parents had been abruptly taken away from her. Then she’d hated everything about the Bar M.
Except Mason. But he hadn’t been enough to keep her here.
“You could turn some light on in here.”
She pivoted, her heart crashing against her chest at the sound of another voice. Mason’s. “You scared the hell out of me. You could have turned a light on so you wouldn’t frighten me half to death.”
He flipped on the overhead lights and headed toward her. “I was in the tack room. Heard someone come in. Since I wasn’t sure who’d be in the barn this late at night, I figured I’d come out to investigate before I announced I was here. Just in case it was an intruder who wasn’t supposed to be in here.”
Her goose bumps returned and she wrapped her arms around her chest to hide her upraised nipples. Mason’s gaze strayed to her chest, his lips lifted, then he looked at her face again.
“What are you doing out here? And why are you half-naked? You should know it’s cold outside.”
“I needed some air, I’m hardly half-naked, and I forgot it was so cold until I was already at the barn.”
He shook his head. “You never had a lick of common sense, woman.” He pulled off his jacket and moved so close she felt his body heat. “Come on. Slide into this.”
Irritated at his attitude, she wanted to say no, but that would be childish, so she put his jacket on. It was warm from his body. It smelled like Mason. She pulled it tighter around her, the smell of leather and male almost overpowering to her senses. “Thanks.”
They stood that way for too long, Valerie staring up into Mason’s so familiar face. He didn’t seem to be in a hurry to move away, and he smelled so damn good. And that’s exactly what had gotten her into trouble earlier today. She stepped back and turned around. “So you got some new horses?”
“Yeah. Gage is doing a great job training. He’s gotten us some beauties.”
She walked along the stalls, stopping at a few to lay her hands on some of the new mares. “I can see that.” There were so many parts of ranch life she missed. The horses, riding the cattle. Riding alongside Mason.
She missed Mason.
No, she didn’t. She missed sex with Mason. That part had been incredible. Everything else between them had been a disaster.
She reached up to pet a mare, doing her best to ignore Mason’s presence. “I guess you stay busy. Not much time for any . . . social life or anything.”
“I haven’t gotten married again if that’s what you’re asking.”
She jumped when she realized he was right behind her. She turned to face him. “I assume you wouldn’t have been all over me in my room today if you were married to someone else. “
“I was all over you?”
“I think you threw yourself at me because you’re starved for sex.”
If there had been a shovel nearby he’d have been a dead man by now. “You are so full of shit.”
“So you’ve often told me.” He didn’t seem at all irritated; in fact he looked downright amused. Which just pissed her off even more.
But she refused to let him get to her. “And anyway, that wasn’t what I was asking. I was just . . . concerned about you.”
He crooked a smile around a piece of straw resting in the corner of his mouth. “Sure you were, darlin’.” He turned and walked away.
She followed. “Don’t you ‘darlin’’ me, Mason. I’m not at all interested in your sex life.”
He stopped and pivoted, then pushed his hat back and arched his brows. “Oh, so now we’re talking about my sex life?”
Her entire body heated, from the tips of her painted toenails to the roots of her hair. “No. We are most definitely not talking about your sex life.”
“Okay. Let’s talk about yours, then. Gotten any lately?”
Her eyes widened. “Dear God. You haven’t changed a bit.” She spun on her heel and headed for the barn door.
“What?” She wasn’t about to stop.
“I’ll come by and pick up my jacket . . . later.”
“Asshole,” she muttered, shrugging out of his jacket and letting it drop to the barn floor. If the cosmos smiled on her, maybe it would fall into a pile of horse shit.
There was no refuge anywhere—at the house or in the barn. But at least the house only contained her sisters. She went through the front door and up the stairs directly to her room.
Unfortunately, Jolene was at the top of the stairs waiting for her.
“What?” Valerie asked.
“What are you running from?”
Valerie rolled her eyes. “Nothing.” She brushed past Jolene and went into her bedroom. Jolene caught the door before Valerie could shut it.
Her sister made herself comfortable on Valerie’s bed, flopping stomach-first onto it.
“Ran into Mason outside, didn’t you?”
Damn Jolene for being so perceptive. “Yes.”
“He still has the ability to make your heart hurt, doesn’t he?”
When had her sister grown up and become so wise? She started to deny it, but what was the use? “Yes.”
“That’s why you don’t come back here.”
Valerie sat on the edge of the bed and blew out a breath of defeat, feeling like she’d failed at running away from the one thing she didn’t want to talk about. “Not all of it, but that’s part of the reason.”
Jo rolled over onto her back and leaned against the pillows. “What’s the other?”
That she wouldn’t get into. Instead, she lifted her shoulders. “I just needed to move on, to find a life outside the Bar M. I wasn’t meant to be a rancher, Jo.”
Jo cocked her head to the side and studied Valerie. “I’m not sure I buy that. You were as good at ranching as I was.”
“I just didn’t love ranching like you do. I was good at it, yes, but you love it. I don’t.”
“Being good at something doesn’t mean you have to love it.”
She felt the squeeze in her heart. “Loving something doesn’t mean you won’t destroy it.”
“Ah,” Jolene said. “So we’re not really talking about the ranch now. You’re talking about your marriage to Mason.”
She lifted her gaze to her sister. “What?”
“Mason. You’re talking about loving Mason.”
“No. I’m not.”
“You’re talking about loving and destroying. That’s not the ranch you’re talking about, Valerie.”
Dammit. Why did everything get turned around to talk of Mason? “There’s a damn good reason we’re not married anymore. And I’d appreciate if you and Brea would keep your matchmaking fingers out of our relationship.”
Jo raised her hands. “Whoa. Okay. Hands off. I get it.”
Jolene swung her legs over the side of the bed and headed for the door. “But, Val?”
“I think you still love him. And he’s not destroyed, so maybe there’s still hope.”
But Jolene had already pulled the door shut and hadn’t heard Valerie scream at her.
Somehow Valerie didn’t think that topic was closed.
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