Marriage at the Cowboy's Command(9)

By: Ann Major


“I guess that will depend on how you take it,” she said. “It’s not altogether bad news, but it’s certainly not something I relish telling you.”

Then she shook herself and stood straighter. No matter how much she dreaded her hour of confession, she wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of seeing how afraid she was.

“Well, I’ve got a stallion to load,” she said briskly.

“Later, then.” He turned and headed to his limo.





Two




What the hell did she have to tell him that was so important?

It wasn’t the first time she’d fed him that line. On the day he’d left for good, nearly six years ago, she’d told him she had something important to tell him. But when he’d gone to meet her in their secret place, her mother had showed up instead. Her mother had fired him and set him straight about a lot of other things, too. Caitlin planned to marry someone else.

Luke had left, but later when he’d calmed down, he’d called Caitlyn. She’d never answered his calls, so he’d written. She’d never written back. Clearly, she’d wanted him out of her life but had lacked the courage to break up with him in person.

Who cared what she had to say today? Quit thinking about it, he told himself.

As if he could. Her brown eyes had been huge, fear-filled dark orbs, her shaky tone ominous. He’d wanted to reach out and pull her close. Thank goodness he hadn’t acted on that rash impulse. She didn’t deserve his kindness, nor his compassion. She never had.

They say you can never go home.

As he’d told Caitlyn, Luke damn sure wouldn’t have come here if he’d had a choice. He belonged in London, in his office, sitting at the helm of his many businesses.

But Hassan, to whom he owed everything, had prevailed.

For nearly six years, Luke Kilgore had avoided all things Texan, especially its women. He wanted no one with dark hair or fiery dark eyes that held a hint of vulnerability; he wanted no one with a soft drawl that sounded too much like a cat’s purr.

Now, sprawled in the back of his leased stretch limo on this fool’s errand, trying to pretend he was relaxed, Luke’s fingers clenched, wrinkling the latest of his CEO’s reports about Kommstarr’s disgruntled employees. Luke thrust it aside impatiently. Steve’s figures in defense of his out-of-control expenditures at Kommstarr made no sense. Luke didn’t like firing people any better than Steve did, but some cuts had to be made.

Hell, Luke had hardly been able to concentrate since he’d landed in San Antonio last night and felt the warmth, even in winter, of the vast, starlit Texas sky. So different from London’s gray, damp chill that all he’d been able to think about was her. In his hotel in downtown San Antonio he’d even dreamed of her.

Why was she scared?

Caitlyn Cooper Wakefield.

Now that he’d seen her, touched her, tasted her, she’d scrambled his brain just like she’d done in the past. How could she still get to him?

Six years ago she’d merely been Caitlyn Cooper. A respected rancher’s only daughter. She should have been off-limits to the motherless son of the county’s number one drunk, Bubba Kilgore. She would have been—if she’d obeyed her daddy or if Luke had had enough sense to keep his hands off her.

Luke compared the woman she was now to the slim girl she’d been back then. She’d been more cute than beautiful, with a freckled nose and wide, dark, innocent eyes that had sparkled with curiosity and laughter. And she’d laughed a lot. At least, in his company.

She hadn’t laughed today.

Back then she’d seemed to find him as exciting as he’d found her. From that first afternoon, when he’d stomped onto her daddy’s porch, desperate for a job, and she’d refused to invite him in, there had been vital chemistry between them.

She wasn’t nearly as beautiful as the women he dated now, and she didn’t dress as fashionably. She’d never cared about those things. Deep down he admired her because she wasn’t vain. Her face was narrow and angular, her thick black hair unruly. She hadn’t worn any makeup. Did it matter? There was something real, something genuine about her, and she sure as hell knew how to kiss.

He wished he could forget how seductively soft and warm her lips had felt beneath his own, forget how good she’d tasted, forget how hard he’d become even before he’d grabbed her this afternoon. Lacking polish, she was all fire and sass, making him burn.

Her hands had climbed his chest and wrapped around his neck as if she knew she belonged to him and no one else. When she’d leaned into him and pulled him close, he’d felt the heat of every female curve.

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