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A KISS ON CRIMSON RANCH by MICHELLE MAJOR
A KISS ON CRIMSON RANCH
By Michelle Major
Former child star Sara Wellens has hit a dead end in Hollywood. When she inherits half of a crumbling guest ranch in Crimson, Colorado, Sara figures she’ll sell her portion to get back on her own two feet and be back in the black in no time at all. No harm, no foul…right?
The one thing she didn’t count on was her partner-in-property, hunky former bull rider and single dad Josh Travers. Sara is surprised at how quickly she bonds with the charming cowboy and his daughter. But she insists that she’s definitely not looking for a forever family. Can the rancher and the starlet let down their guards to find their own Hollywood happy ending?
A KISS ON CRIMSON RANCH
By Michelle Major
Sara didn’t make it back to her cabin until close to eleven, way past her bedtime with the early-morning hours on the ranch. She’d helped April clean up in the kitchen after Brandy and Claire had gone to bed, leaving the guys to relive old stories around the fire pit on the side patio.
To her surprise, Ryan had seemed to find his place in the over-testosteroned group, happily sharing stories of which Hollywood starlets had what body parts surgically enhanced.
She smiled to herself at the stories she could tell if she wanted then jumped at a noise from the trees next to her front door.
“Heart attack central over here,” she squeaked as Josh stepped out of the darkness.
“Sorry.” He didn’t look sorry. He looked big and gorgeous in his soft flannel shirt, faded jeans and boots. A light was on in her cabin, its glow illuminating the front step enough for her to see him clearly.
Late-night stubble shadowed his jaw, defining it even more and making her wonder how that roughness would feel across her skin. She quickly pulled her mind away from that train of thought. No good could come from there.
“Expecting someone else?” he asked.
“Yogi Bear?” she answered, still trying to catch her breath. “Or Grizzly Adams, maybe?”
One corner of his mouth hitched up, matching the catch in her throat. “Noah likes you.”
“I got the impression Noah likes anyone with breasts and a pulse.”
That drew a laugh from him. “Probably. The question is, do you like him?”
Something in his tone of voice put her on edge. “I don’t think that’s any of your business.” She took a step toward her door but he blocked the path.
“It is if you’re going to mix business with pleasure.”
She eyed him for a moment then swallowed, too tired to play games or even put up a fight. “I’m not interested in Noah.”
He watched her.
“Or Manny. Or Bryson.”
He continued to stare.
She huffed out a breath. “I’m not after your friends. Why do I feel like there’s still a problem?”
He blinked several times then mumbled, “Thank you.”
“I’m having trouble following you.”
“For tonight. You made Claire feel comfortable, and I have a feeling you suggested the stupid game to do the same for me.”
“Everyone had fun playing the game,” she said, letting a little temper seep into her voice. “I was just keeping the guests entertained. I’m sure you can handle your own feelings.”
“You’re right—it wasn’t stupid. We did have fun. Because of you.”
The cool night air licked across her bare arms and goose bumps tickled her skin in its wake. She took another deep breath, hoping the scent of the surrounding mountains would calm her. Josh’s gaze fell to her chest, which had the exact opposite effect on her jumbled emotions.
His eyes squeezed shut. “I don’t know how to do this.”
“Want you so badly and not act on it.”
She knew that feeling. “There are a lot of reasons we shouldn’t be together.”
He nodded but said, “Tell me why I shouldn’t kiss you right now.”
Every shred of rational thought dissolved from her brain. Without meaning to, she swayed a tiny bit closer to him. “I don’t want to.”
“You don’t want to kiss me?”
“I don’t want to give you a reason not to,” she said on a shaky laugh.
He laced his fingers with hers and tugged her closer. With his other hand he cupped the back of her head, bringing her mouth against his. Like before, his kiss mesmerized her. Her defenses, her protective walls—everything inside her loosened and traveled south to parts of her body that hadn’t been lit up for years. Those bits were glowing now as he claimed her, pulling her against him and deepening the kiss.
A shiver ran across her back and he wrapped his arms tightly around her. She snuggled into the heat that radiated from his body, losing herself in his spicy scent.
Tugging at the hem of her T-shirt, his warm hands pressed against her skin for several minutes before his fingers worked at her bra strap. Yes, yes, yes, her reawakened senses shouted in her head. At the same time, a trickle of unease danced across her conscience.
She didn’t do casual flings. That was one of the few standards she’d held true to, both in and out of the spotlight. L.A. was filled with relationships built on nothing more than mutual attraction and soul-crushing loneliness. Sara hadn’t given her body or her heart in a moment of weakness in the past. She wasn’t going to let her hormones take over now. She knew how badly that could play out in the morning, and she wouldn’t risk her pride, no matter how good it felt.
The silent snap of her bra opening brought her fully to her right mind.
“Stop.” She wasn’t sure if she’d said the word out loud until Josh’s hands stilled on her waist.
He buried his face in the side of her neck. “Is this what you call a dramatic pause?” he asked, his voice ragged.
“We shouldn’t do this.”
“I hope you mean we should take it inside your cabin instead.”
Sara gave him a small push and he immediately moved back. “I mean the two of us is a bad idea for a lot of reasons.”
“If I’d known you’d actually muster an argument, I’m not sure I would have asked the question.”
“What do you want out of this summer, Josh?”
He tilted his head, massaged his thumb and index finger above his eyes. “Money,” he answered simply.
“Is that all?”
“Give me a break on the twenty questions, Sara. My brain isn’t firing on all cylinders right now.” He sighed. “I want a future for Claire and me. I want this ranch to feel like home for her.”
She nodded and tried not to admit that the truth in his words stung. She was used to not being a priority to anyone, even herself. But it still hurt to hear it out loud. “It’s about Claire for you. For me it’s about a second chance of a different kind.”
In a way, things had been easier in California. The day-to-day struggle to make ends meet had left her little time to ponder the sad state of the rest of her life. Now that she had that time, it was up to her to protect herself. No one else was going to.
She liked to believe that her grandma would have fought for Sara if her mother hadn’t made sure they never returned to Crimson. Maybe her grandmother would have been the positive role model Sara had so desperately needed.
She wanted to think that’s why Gran had left her the house. An olive branch of sorts. Sara had no intention of letting it go to waste.
“I want the money and the fresh start it will give me. I’m going to get it one way or another. Even if that means…”
The lingering heat in his eyes went instantly frosty. “Even if that means crushing my future to guarantee your own.”
Michelle Major grew up in Ohio but dreamed of living in the mountains. Soon after graduating with a degree in Journalism, she pointed her car west and settled in Colorado. Her life and house are filled with one great husband, two beautiful kids, a few furry pets and several well-behaved reptiles. She’s grateful to have found her passion writing stories with happy endings. Michelle loves to hear from her readers at www.michellemajor.com.
Links to Michelle’s website, blog, books, etc.
**SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Michelle is giving away a signed copy of A KISS ON CRIMSON RANCH to one lucky reader who comments on her Monday Interview or Wednesday Book Bench blog. Don’t miss this chance to read this great story! Thanks, Michelle, for sharing your new release with us!