SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: Ballad Beauty by Lauren Linwood

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After ten years apart, Boston schoolmarm Jenny McShanahan receives a letter from her beloved father that instructs her to join him in Texas. She has no idea that he’s become Famous Sam McShan, the Robin Hood of the West. She arrives to find Sam already gone, but he left instructions for Jenny to hire a guide and rendezvous with him in Nevada.

Texas Ranger Noah Daniel Webster knows Sam personally because his father, Pistol Pete Webber, was Sam’s longtime partner in crime. When Pete is killed during their last big score, Noah requests the assignment to bring Sam to justice. Going undercover, he volunteers to act as Jenny’s escort across the dangerous prairie, using her to track her outlaw father’s location.

As they journey through rough country, love blossoms—but Noah knows the second he arrests Sam, his betrayal will kill Jenny’s love for him. Should the lawman do his duty as a Ranger, or should he let love rule? The choice Noah makes will change their lives forever.

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EXCERPT

Jenny crumpled into a heap on the ground. Her weeping turned into harsh, guttural noises. The sound of it broke Noah’s heart. He scooped her up in his arms.

“There, now. It’s okay, honey. It’ll be fine. You’ll see,” he murmured.

She buried her face against his shoulder. He sat down on a stump near the fire and stroked her hair. He whispered mostly nonsense to her, in gentle, soothing tones, trying to quiet her sobs.

He hated it when a woman cried. Yet if anyone had something to cry about, it was Jenny McShanahan. He hated Sam in that moment more than he’d ever thought possible. The outlaw abandoned this sweet woman when she was but a child and spun her dreams of future happiness. Now those dreams had splintered into a thousand pieces.

“Jenny?”

She raised her tear-stained face as she clutched his shoulders for support. He still held her on his lap, an arm about her waist. She bit her lower lip as it quivered uncontrollably. A fresh wave of tears cascaded down her cheeks.

“Damn him.” Noah brushed his knuckles across her soft, wet cheeks. “I’m so sorry, honey.”

His hand slipped to the back of her neck and drew her close to him. He needed to comfort her, and so he did it the only way he knew how.

He kissed her.

It was the sweetest kiss in his life. It made him want to protect her from everything bad. He wanted to keep Sam and the world at bay for a few minutes.
Instinctively, he deepened the kiss and felt her tentative response. He realized she’d never been kissed before, and the thought pleased him. He tightened his hold around her waist. She melted in his arms.

Noah wanted her. More than he ever wanted a woman he’d held.

The kiss turned from gentle to possessive. His hand went up to caress her face and then pushed into her upswept hair. The pins fell away. Honeyed curls cascaded about her shoulders. His fingers ran through the waves as he deepened the kiss and strove to make them as one, if only for a few moments.

He pulled away from her mouth and pressed his lips along her jaw to her ear. He nibbled lightly on her earlobe and was rewarded with her shiver of pleasure. He claimed her mouth again, a fierce tenderness racing through him. His hand fell from her hair and went to fondle her breast when he stopped himself. What on God’s green earth was he doing?

A man kisses a nice girl like this too much, and it leads to an end of his freedom. If there was one thing he wasn’t interested in, it was settling down. Passion be damned. He could find this kind of pleasure with any crib gal.

He abruptly broke the kiss and pushed Jenny from his lap. He stood up, his knees weak, but his resolve strong. Until he looked at her.

She was more tempting than any female he’d ever laid eyes upon, and he’d seen his share of beautiful women. Her lips were swollen and full from their passion, her moss green eyes misty. The hair tumbling down her back gave her a wild look. This was no sexless schoolmarm but a tiger waiting to be awakened. He knew he’d just messed with fire. He needed to put it out before it raged out of his control.

“We can never do that again,” he said flatly.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

linwoodLauren Linwood became a teacher who wrote on the side to maintain her sanity in a sea of teenage hormones. Her historical romances use history as a backdrop to place her characters in extraordinary circumstances, where their intense desire for one another grows into the treasured gift of love. Her romantic suspense novels feature strong heroes and heroines who unite to defeat a clever antagonist and discover a deep, abiding love during their journey.

A native Texan, Lauren lives in a Dallas suburb with her family. An avid reader, moviegoer, and sports fan, she manages stress by alternating yoga with long walks. She plans to start a support group for House Hunters addicts—as soon as she finishes her next piece of dark chocolate.

You can connect with Lauren at: laurenlinwood.com * ~ * ~ * Blog * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Amazon * ~ * ~ * Goodreads.

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