COWBOY DREAMING Harlequin Desire by Shawna Delacorte reissued by Harlequin in ebook
G-EXCERPT #1: (First Meeting/Opening)
Melanie Winslow placed her foot on the top step leading to the porch. It creaked as she put her weight on it. After all these years it still creaks. Maybe it was the eerie stillness of the night that made the noise seem so much louder than she remembered. Trepidation welled inside her, almost overwhelming the task she had set for herself. She fought the urge to turn and run.
It had been almost ten years since she last stepped foot on the porch of the house where she had lived for the first eighteen years of her life—almost ten years since the day of her mother’s funeral. She paused on the front porch and glanced back over her shoulder. The full moon shone brightly in the black sky, casting its silvery glow across the landscape. The crisp night air belied the fact that it was springtime. Melanie shivered inside her jacket, her Southern California clothes not suited to the colder clime.
She inserted the key into the lock and turned it. The dead bolt clicked as it slid back. She placed her hand on the doorknob, then paused and gave a quick look back over her shoulder. Was it too late to turn around, get in her car and start driving back to Los Angeles? She took a calming breath, opened the front door and stepped into the living room.
A dark, shadowy figure lunged at Melanie, knocked the wind from her and shoved her to the floor. She shook her head, momentarily stunned by the force of the blow, then attempted to scramble to her feet. The large body on top of her pinned her to the carpeting. She instinctively struck out at her assailant, digging her fingernails into his bare chest. His strong arms prevented her from putting up much of a fight in her defense. The menacing voice rasped in her ear.
“Stay put unless you want your head bashed in.”
Melanie gasped for air, then gasped in terror as a rough hand grazed the side of her neck, brushed across her jacket, then settled over her breast. She knew her voice trembled with fear. It was all she could do to force out the words. “Please…don’t…”
“What the hell—” Shock did not even come close to describing Cody Chandler’s reaction to his accidental discovery. He jerked back his hand and jumped to his feet. Moving through the darkness, he flipped on the light switch by the front door.
The intruder lay sprawled on the floor. An oversize jacket covered a body that definitely belonged to a woman—there was no doubt about that fact. Her hazel eyes were wide with fear; her lips slightly parted; her short, dark hair in wild disarray; her legs encased in worn jeans. He felt some of the tension drain away as the adrenaline surge began to wear off.
Melanie gazed up at the large man who loomed over her like some fearful image dredged up from the bottom of her deepest fears. He was dressed in a pair of old jeans and nothing else. With the exception of the hard glint in his blue eyes, he looked as though he had just been roused from sleep. Her pounding heart and racing pulse slowed a bit as her fear subsided.
He made no attempt to help her up from the floor. “Who the hell are you and what are you doing here?” He barked out his demands, making it clear exactly who was in charge.
The fear had passed and the anger set in. Mel scrambled to her feet, adjusting her disheveled clothing as she regained her balance. Now that she was upright, she realized just how tall he was, even compared with her five-feet-seven-inch height. He topped six feet by at least one inch, maybe even two.
She glared at him defiantly while running her fingers through her hair in an attempt to untangle it. “How dare you attack me like that! You’re lucky I’m not calling the police right now.”
“You calling the police!” He unconsciously rubbed his fingers across the scratches she had inflicted, then folded his arms across his chest. “I’m perfectly within my rights to protect my home against intruders…and other undesirables.”
She inwardly bristled at his accusation. She was not sure which irritated her more, his referring to her as an undesirable intruder or his other claim. “Your home! No way is this your home. This house—in fact, this entire ranch and everything on it—belongs to Buck Winslow. I ought to know because I’m his daughter.”
Cody blinked a couple of times and shook his head in an attempt to clear the sleep. Had he heard correctly? This woman standing in front of him was Buck Winslow’s long-absent daughter? He never would have recognized her from the old high-school graduation picture Buck kept by his bed. Cody finally found his voice and blurted out the first thing that came to his mind. “You’re Melanie Winslow? Where the hell have you been? And why have you bothered to show up after nearly ten years?”
Now it was Mel’s turn to be surprised. Just who was this man who seemed to know more about her than a stranger should? “Well, that takes care of who I am. Now, just who are you?”
“I’m Cody Chandler, Buck’s ranch foreman.”
“Oh, yeah?” Oh, great—brilliant retort, Mel. “No way, cowboy. The ranch foreman is Tom Collier, has been for years.”
“Not anymore. Arthritis. The doc suggested he might be more comfortable in a warmer, drier climate, so he went to Tucson a little over eight years ago.” He fixed her with a cold look. “But, then, you wouldn’t know that, would you?”
There was something about the sarcasm in his voice and his aggressive manner that set Melanie’s teeth on edge. He seemed just a little too possessive, just a little too much in charge. And where was her father? He had never been a particularly sound sleeper. Surely all the commotion must have been loud enough to wake him. She glanced down the darkened hallway that led to the bedrooms, then turned her attention back to Cody. “Since when does the hired help sleep in the main house and refer to the property as theirs? And just where the hell is my father?”
Cody stretched himself to his fullest height. His eyes narrowed and his jaw clenched in a hard line. “You’ve got quite a mouth on you, kid.” He continued to stare at her, refusing to give her any quarter. She certainly did have quite a mouth on her—it was full, lush and very sensual. Just the type of mouth that needed to be kissed—long, hard…and often.
“I’m hardly a kid and I certainly don’t appreciate your arrogant attitude. Besides, that doesn’t answer my question.” She adopted a condescending air as she continued to question him. “But if a two-part question is too difficult for you, we can skip the first part and go right to the second.” Then, without warning, the hard edge again surrounded her words. “Where is my father? What have you done with him?”
“You weren’t concerned a year ago, so why should you be concerned now?” Again he gave her no leeway. He refused to back off or give her any room to maneuver.
The conversation had taken a totally unexpected turn in direction. Something was wrong…terribly wrong. The anger drained from Melanie, to be replaced by an unsettling jitter that started in the pit of her stomach and quickly spread throughout her body. Was she too late? Had her decision to resolve the estrangement with her father and attempt to bridge the huge chasm between them come too late?
COWBOY DREAMING, a Harlequin Desire by Shawna Delacorte, has been reissued in ebook and is available at http://ebooks.eharlequin.com (do search for author name Shawna Delacorte). It’s also available at Barnes and Noble in NookBooks www.bn.com and Amazon for Kindle www.amazon.com Information is available on my website www.shawnadelacorte.com
When Melanie Winslow returned to the Colorado ranch where she was raised, she never expected to find herself stranded in a mountain cabin with Cody Chandler. The rugged ranch manager was the answer to every daydream Melanie had ever had about strong, sexy cowboys.
But this one was real, with a kiss that made Melanie’s heart beat faster, and a smile that hinted at the most intimate things. The trouble was, the last thing Melanie intended to do was fall in love with an untamed cowboy—no matter how perfect he seemed. If only her heart felt the same way….