He rode into town to buy supplies, not a woman.
For hunted recluse Rafe McBride, the dark-haired beauty on the auction block is exactly what he doesn’t need. A dependent woman will be another clue his vengeful stepbrother can use to find and kill him. But Rafe’s conscience won’t let him leave another innocent’s virginity to the riff-raff bidding. He buys her, promising to return her to St. Louis untouched. He only prays the impending blizzard holds off before she breaks his willpower.
She wanted freedom, not a lover.
Whisked to the auction block by her devious, gambling cousin, and then sold into the arms of a gorgeous stranger, outspoken artist Maggie Monroe isn’t about to go meekly. Especially when the rugged mountain man looks like sin and danger rolled into one. But a blizzard and temptation thrust them together, and Maggie yearns to explore her smoldering passion for Rafe.
But when the snow clears, will the danger and secrets that surround Rafe and Maggie tear them apart?
Maggie buttoned her coat while the men said their good-byes on the boardwalk. Rafe took the sack from her hands and strode toward the hitching post. Her gaze landed on his horse. The huge beast was the animal she had considered making her escape on. He looked as testy as his owner—and she had to tolerate the company of both. She glanced from horse to man and raised her chin a notch. After his less than complimentary words, she’d be damned before showing fear.
The icy wind whipped her hair when she started from the protective cover of the porch. She tucked the loose strands into the collar of her coat and stepped off the boardwalk.
Rafe frowned. “Wait.” He deposited her back on the porch and disappeared inside. He returned and dropped a man’s felt hat onto her head. “To keep the snow and rain off your face.”
“Thank—” She stopped short as he pulled a pair of thick gloves from his pocket and pressed them into her hands. “Thank you.”
He shrugged. “Tom thought you should have them.” Then he walked to the horses, leaving her to follow.
Fine. He didn’t want her gratitude. It made no difference to her as long as he kept his promise and took her to the fort.
She stepped off the porch as the snow whirled around. Bits of ice mixed with the large flakes and stung her skin. She tilted her head and leaned into the wind, glad for the hat and for Tom’s thoughtfulness.
“We’ll have to ride double,” Rafe said when she stood beside him. “There’s no room on the pack mule.”
He tied her sack to the saddle-horn, then turned. His steel gaze darted from her to the animals and he frowned, as if he’d just realized how close riding double would be. Maggie couldn’t decipher his muttered curse, but judging by his dark scowl, she didn’t want to know his thoughts.
He swung his lean frame onto the horse and settled in the saddle, then reached a strong hand down to her. She looked up—way up—at his outstretched palm. She placed her gloved hand in his and hoped she didn’t fall. Her breath whooshed out in surprise when he pulled her up behind him as if she weighed no more than a sack of feathers.
Oh, God. A shudder ran through her and she covered her eyes with her hands. No wonder she hated horses. She cracked one eye open, glanced down…and buried her face into Rafe’s back. They sat at least six feet off the ground! Thank God she wouldn’t have to attempt riding alone. Except now her body pressed against his, a fact that stole her breath.
What should she do with her hands? If she held on to the back of the saddle she’d be dangerously close to his backside. Wrapping her arms around him seemed bold. She clutched the sides of his coat in her fists and wiggled until she found a comfortable position.
Rafe craned his head and glared over his shoulder. “Ready?”
Before she could answer he clicked his tongue to his horse, and they took off with a lurch. The mule’s lead-rope bit into her leg as the stubborn animal lagged behind.
“Hang on. We’ve got to ride hard.”
She nodded, then added, “I’m fine. Do what you must.”
As they rode by Zeke’s, Michael’s triumphant face grinned through the window. She stared at him, unwilling to look away in shame. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. Michael was the one who should be ashamed. Her father had entrusted him with the family’s fortune and with Maggie. The money would be gone before Christmas.
Where will I be?
The enormous weight of her situation crushed her. She shuddered and bit back tears, again nearly overwhelmed by the urge to cry. She was just tired and hungry. That was all. By next week this trip—this whole nightmare—would be nothing but a bad memory.
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About the Author
After trying several careers—everything from a beautician to a dump truck driver—Jennifer finally returned to her first love, writing. Maybe it was all those Clint Eastwood movies she watched growing up, but in her opinion there is no better read than a steamy western historical.
Married to her very own hero, she lives on fifteen acres along with two beautiful daughters, two spoiled cats, three hyper dogs and one fat rabbit.
During the summer she does Civil War re-enacting and has found it a great research tool, not to mention she has continued appreciation for her microwave and hot water heater.
Her debut novel, RAFE’S REDEMPTION, was a RWA Golden Heart finalist and Won BEST ROMANCE 2011 at DITHR and many other awards. RAFE’S REDEMPTION has since become a #1 Best Seller on Amazon!
Her second book, TWICE IN A LIFETIME, was an International Digital Award finalist. It has also recently become a #1 Best Seller on Amazon!
Visit Jennifer Jakes at www.jenniferjakes.com or find her books on Amazon.