From award-winning author Molly O'Keefe comes a wonderfully written contemporary romance about second chances at life and at love.
Victoria Baker, the penniless widow of a disgraced financier, is ready to stand up, be counted, and make a new life for herself and her beloved son in Texas. She's taking over Crooked Creek ranch, her birthright, and turning it into something special. All that stands in her way is Eli Turnbull, a rugged, too-handsome cowboy who wants the land just as badly.
If Victoria wants a fight, Eli will give her one. He's devoted his life to Crooked Creek, and he's not about to let some pampered city girl--even one as brave and beautiful as Victoria--turn it into some silly spa. But Victoria's and Eli's burning anger and frustration only fuel heat of another kind: uncontrollable passion. And soon they each realize that the person standing in their way is the one they can never do without.
From the Paperback edition.
Victoria Schulman was hugging his horse.
If that wasn't enough to piss a man off, Eli Turnbull didn't know what was. That she was doing it in one of those fussy satin shirts only made it worse.
The woman was tiny, a paisley-covered speck against his horse's wide black head. Eli had some inclination to worry about Victoria--about her thinness, and the dark circles under her eyes--but he ignored it.
And he felt bad bullying a woman who clearly needed not only a good meal but someone to take care of her. But every time he tried to be nice--thinking about honey versus vinegar and all that shit--something about her would just make him crazy.
Like, right now, her shoes. They were red and they had bows.
How in the world could she put on those shoes and say "yeah, I'll be a rancher"?
Honestly, he wanted to be nice, but she was just so ridiculous.
"You need boots if you're going to be in here."
His voice cut up the distance between them and she stepped away from his horse.
Not very nice.
Instead of flinching, she lifted her chin as if they were about to box. He'd give her points for foolish courage, but foolish courage never helped anyone.
"I . . . ah . . ." She glanced down at the silly shoes on her feet. "I suppose you're right."
He stepped across the wide aisle between the tack room and the stall where he kept Patience, his mare. Victoria didn't back away. Her hands flexed into fists for a moment, but then she spread them wide and ran them down the edges of her skirt.
Her efforts at control were totally ruined by her eyes. Their navy-blue depths betrayed her interest. He felt her gaze travel across his chest, his arms. Felt it linger at the base of his throat where the sweat ran down his shirt.
She tried to act nonchalant, she really did, but she failed.
"Ah . . . Ruby said you were looking for me," she said.
"It's nine. I was looking for you at seven this morning." Okay, that wasn't nice either, but he couldn't resist pointing out how terribly unsuited she was for this place. For this job she'd taken on.
"I have a son, Eli. I can't drop everything when you need me."
Biting his tongue, he opened the stall to lead Patience into the aisle.
"Careful," he said when Victoria stumbled out of the way.
She glared up at him as if she knew what he was doing, how he was trying to bully her.
He gave a smile another shot.
"Oh, you can stop the act, Eli. I know you're mad."
"I'm not mad."
"Eli, it's not like I'm doing this to hurt you." The brief touch of her hand against his back, like lightning over the high pastures, lit him up from the inside.
This time he shied away, feeling the burn of her hand under his skin.
"Of course not. You're taking over the ranch because you have a deep and abiding love of the land."
"Is that so hard to believe?"
He looked pointedly at her hair, pulled so tight from her face, that stupid ruffled collar, her stick-thin legs beneath the hem of her skirt. Those ridiculous shoes.
Two hours ago he'd had a plan for this conversation; now he had to get going, and Victoria was wearing those stupid shoes and he was angry when he'd intended to be nice.
"Fine. All right. Look, Eli, we both know I have no clue what I'm doing with this ranch, but I want to learn. I want . . ." She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders.
Oh crap. She was going to reveal something now. Something that was supposed to make him feel bad, make him want to help her.
Don't, he wanted to say. Don't hand me any more...