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Authors: Sherri Thomas

Tags: #Contemporary,Western

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BOOK: Explosive Memories
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Jordan drew her brows together. The man possessed an uncanny resemblance to someone from her past. One who invaded her thoughts and still occupied way too many dreams.

Impossible. She hadn’t laid eyes on the man since their one night together. One very long, intense night.

He removed his hat, revealing dark hair and chocolate eyes.

Her throat stuck shut, and she swallowed. Why hadn’t she asked more questions concerning her friend’s future husband?

Because you were too wrapped up in your own life dealing with one catastrophe after another.

Besides, the answers wouldn’t have made a difference. That long ago night, the cowboy never told her his last name. Heck, not knowing him and not wanting her parents to find out where she’d been, she’d given him an alias…had he used a pseudonym as well?

She studied the strong features, noting a dimple in his left cheek which hadn’t been present before. The jaw was a bit more square and lacked the presence of a small scar from stringing barbwire. Concluding this was not the man from her past, she sighed with relief.

Boy, what an awkward mess things would’ve been if he turned out to be her cowboy lover. She laughed to herself. Thank God for small favors—or large ones in this instance.

The man’s arm slid around Darcy’s waist. Love radiated as he stared down, and Jordan turned away from the intimate moment.

“I’m just happy she’s here. Jordie, I’d like you to meet the love of my life, Nick Matthews.”

Darcy’s voice drew her gaze back to the couple.

“Nick, this is my best friend in the whole world,” she continued.

He extended a hand. “I can’t tell you how glad I am you’re here. All I’ve heard is Jordan this and Jordan that since you decided to come home.” His eyes rolled, but a smile cracked his chiseled features.

She grasped his palm in what her father taught her to be a firm handshake, pumping only once, and letting him withdrawal from the embrace first. “Nice to meet you.”

He raised an eyebrow.

Darcy elbowed him in the gut, earning a chuckle as her soulful eyes glanced down at the purse in Jordan’s hand. “Were you going somewhere?”

“I was coming to find you in hopes of grabbing a cup of coffee before I meet with Dr. Sheffield about a job.” And that was the truth, she just hadn’t made it out the door to go in search for her friend, nor had she known exactly where to look.

“You certainly aren’t wasting time.”

“What can I say, I don’t like sitting around.”

Too much time to think. Too much time to feel. Must keep going or the ghosts of the past will catch up…again.

“I’ll leave you two to talk. Chris’s waiting for me at the barns.” Nick kissed his fiancée and fingered the brim of his hat as he placed the Stetson on his head. “I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of each other.” He pivoted and strolled out the door, leaving the wood to bang on the frame.

Jordan swatted her friend on the arm.

“Ow. What was that for?” The brunette rubbed the assaulted area.

“That man adores you.”

“I know, but I love him more as the argument goes.” Darcy giggled, her face radiating happiness, her eyes bright and sparkling.

What would it be like to feel such contentment? With the direction Jordan’s life headed, that was something she’d never experience. She peeked at her watch, noted the minutes slipping away, and glanced up into her friend’s frown.

“You
are
in a hurry.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t want to be late. Dr. Sheffield’s only in the office until noon, and he doesn’t know I moved back.”

“Well then, let’s get that coffee.” Looping arms, she added, “Make sure you tell him I said hello.”

“I will.” Having been Darcy’s physician during her hospital stay, the doctor was partly responsible for bringing the two together.

“Let’s drive my rental to the main house so I won’t have to walk back up here.” Jordan dug keys out of her satchel and ambled out to the blue Tacoma. Opening the driver’s door and getting in, she slid the key into the ignition and waited for her passenger to settle into the leather interior.

“Not a bad deal, huh?”

“Ah ha, I knew you had a deep, dark secret. You’re carrying a torch for trucks.” Darcy laughed.

Jordan smiled when she really wanted to cringe. That was far from her deepest, darkest secrets. “Actually, I preferred a more practical ride, like a newer car, but this was all they had available.”

Putting the vehicle in gear, she laid a heavy foot on the gas pedal. Warm wind blew in from the open window; the air held a familiar scent of animal and wild flowers. Tension in her shoulders drained away.

“You may want to slow down. There’s a speed bump right…” The rental bounced hard. “About there,” Darcy informed her.

“Sorry.” She slowed and continued along the gravel to the main house.

“So, are you going to tell me what happened with Ed-the-Magnificent?”

“Can we discuss him
after
I’ve sampled a healthy dose of caff—” Swept away by the picture perfect scenery ahead, Jordan stopped in the middle of the drive. “Wow.”

The three story, log bed and breakfast resembled a vacationing ski lodge. Glass panes lined the first floor and extended close to the roof on the far end of the inn. Pine trees and mature oaks surrounded one side of the structure with a wooden porch that wrapped around the opposite end from front to back.

“It’s gorgeous. I couldn’t make much out last night, but…wow.” She blinked, trying to take in the whole view.

“I had the same reaction. Park this thing, and I’ll show you inside.”

Swinging the truck to the gravel area on the right, she killed the engine, fisted the keys in her palm, and exited the automobile.

A golden dog ran up, barking and wagging its tail.

“Hi, boy.” Darcy scratched the animal’s fur. “This is Dakota, Nick’s dog.”

Not giving the canine a chance to jump or drool on her, Jordan patted him on the head and sidestepped. She didn’t dislike the creature, but the dress cost too much to have ruined by a mud stain or slobber.

A loud whistle split the air, and the animal trotted off in a hurry.

“The guys must be going out on the trails. Dakota likes to lead. According to Nick, he helps desensitize the horses to spooking when the guests go on a guided ride. Honestly, I think the dog just keeps all the other critters away. In turn, there are none to jump out and scare them.”

“Everything serves a purpose on a ranch.” She recalled the cowboy’s words when she’d been curled up on his chest listening to him talk about the animals on his farm. Standing real still, she could almost feel the rumble of his chest on her ear as he spoke in that deep, quiet tone.

A hand touched her arm.

“Hey, you okay? You got a far away look on your face.”

Giving herself a mental shake, Jordan nodded. “Sorry, I’m fine. Probably a bit of jet lag.”

Wrapping her fingers around the sturdiness of the railing, she followed her friend up the wooden steps to the wraparound deck and entered into a large, pale yellow kitchen. The spacious room sported two large, stainless steel refrigerators, a huge stove, and a round, wooden table in the corner. A robust woman stood at the sink, scowling in their direction.

“Ms. Liz, this is Jordan. Ms. Liz is the ranch cook and makes the best coffee and chocolate mousse cake.”

Jordan held out a hand to the square-shouldered lady. “Hello.”

“Humph. Might want to get in here earlier if you want a decent breakfast,” the cook growled, walking away.

“Her bark’s worse than her bite.” Darcy grabbed two cups from the counter, filling them with caffeine. “Don’t take it personal. Took me six months to get her to even say good morning.” She held out a mug. “There’s sugar and creamer by the canisters, or if you want flavored, I believe there’s several different kinds in the fridge.”

“This is fine.” Jordan used one spoon to scoop the sweetener and non-dairy product into her cup and another to stir. “Has anyone suggested Ms. Liz loosen the bun on top of her head?” she whispered. Setting the utensils on a napkin, she sipped the brown liquid. The flavor flooded her mouth and awakened her taste buds.

“My thought exactly.”

As Darcy laughed, Jordan regarded the future Mrs. Nick Matthews with a bit of envy. “This place has been good for you. You really are happy, aren’t you?”

“Nick has been good for me. This place was a bonus.” She ambled over to the old, round table in the corner. “I’m even working part time at White’s Law Firm in town.”

“That’s great. I’m glad you found this ranch, and each other.” Jordan sat on the wooden chair. Hearing her mother’s speech to her about sitting like a lady, she straightened her spine and crossed one leg over the other.

“Okay, spill. What happened with Mr. Wonderful? You were very vague over the phone and never spoke of any problems.”

She sighed, wondering where to begin. Deciding on the quick version, she admitted, “Ed only needed me to support him financially while he chased his pipe dream of becoming a country western singer,
and
everything in a skirt.” Finding it improper to discuss the dirty details of her relationship, she stopped short of revealing the knockdown, drag out arguments concerning the lack of sex. The man couldn’t understand why, after months together, she refused to sleep with him—a detail he envied at one time saying she was truly a lady, and the fact she wanted to wait made her even more attractive…until the clock ran out anyway, and he found other willing females.

“That asshole. After everything you gave up for him.”

“I truly think he loved me in his own way. He was always full of compliments.”

Ed continuously told her how he loved the fact she always used manners in everything she did, how she never put her elbows on the table or burped or slouched, always ladylike. He often said he loved her outfits and how neat and tidy she kept the apartment. So, she worked every available minute of overtime to help pay their mounting bills, only to hear him say “someday” he’d hit it big, and she could quit her job. Not that she would have. She needed something to do while he spent hours playing in the honky tonks. And he definitely had been “
playing
,

according to the countless women who called looking for him every night.

“Oh, honey, I’m sorry.” Darcy reached out and touched her arm. “But I am glad you’re back. I hated that you quit your job and moved away. It was like you were at his mercy.”

She waved in a dismissive gesture. “I’m over it. Over him. There was something missing.”

“Don’t ever settle for anything less. Real love does exist. Take me for example. Never in a million years did I think when I applied for a job on this ranch I’d find my soul mate.”

But when your heart isn’t yours to give, when the past absorbs every cell of your being, and you have to fight each second of the day to stay in charge of the emotions…

“I think I’ll concentrate on me for a while. Anyway, I couldn’t run right back here. Dr. Sheffield helped me get the job in Nashville, and I owed it to him to stick it out. But Tennessee wasn’t for me. I missed home.” What part she couldn’t be sure. Amarillo offered her nothing, except Darcy and the doctor. Yet, a feeling of belonging enveloped her.

The back door creaked, and a stocky man with an easy smile entered.

“Morning, Sam,” Darcy addressed the cowboy.

“Mornin’.” He hung his tan hat on the rack and strode over to the coffee pot.

Dark hair, dark eyes, the same shaped face. Jordan’s heart rate sped up. Why did every male she came across today resemble
him
. This man was broader, thicker in the chest, and also lacked the scar, but the resemblance to her cowboy of years ago was uncanny.

“Sam, this is Jordan.” She turned to her. “This is one of Nick’s brothers.”

Chocolate eyes crinkled at the corners as he stepped closer and extended a beefy hand. “The oh so famous Jordan.” He bowed, smiling. “You’ll certainly improve the scenery around here.”

“Sam, behave.”

“I mean besides you, Ms. Smarty Pants.”

His large fingers engulfed her own. “Hello.”

Having seen the two brothers, edginess filled her. Was it possible for a person to have more than one look-a-like out in the world?

“Nice grip.” He chuckled, released her hand, and crossed to the counter. “She could give some of the guys around here a lesson in proper handshakes.”

“How many brothers did you say Nick has?” Jordan whispered, fearing the answer to come.

“Three.”

“What are their names?” Telling herself it didn’t matter, she lifted the coffee cup to her lips. Even if the cowboy turned out to be a Matthews, it wouldn’t change her course of action. She had no time for the past.

“I can’t believe I never told you.”

“You’ve talked about them, but always referred to them as Nick’s brothers.”

“Well.” Darcy frowned. “There’s Sam, here.”

The cowboy turned around at the mention of his name and grinned.

“Chris and Trent.”

Trent. Oh, God.
Jordan set the mug down heavier than intended, and the contents sloshed onto her hand.
What were the chances?
And if it was him, would he even recognize her? Perhaps he forgot about her, about that night.

Lucky him.
For her, those twelve hours started a spiraling downhill fall. The beginning of many punishments for bad behavior.

From her peripheral vision, she glimpsed the bride-to-be’s lips turn into a smug smile.

“They’re all very, very handsome and
very
single. Aren’t you Sam?” She winked in his direction.

“Don’t go trying to pair us off Darc.”

“Me?” She laughed.

If she only knew.
But few people did. Jordan stole a glance in the cowboy’s direction, then back at her friend. “And you know I’m coming out of a terrible relationship.”

The brunette sipped her coffee, and with a wink, faced her future brother-in-law. “What are you up to today?”

“Trent and I are headed to town for roofing supplies, then we need to stop by the vet’s office. He thinks Sierra might give birth soon and wants to be prepared.”

BOOK: Explosive Memories
3.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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